Top North Korean envoy leaves for New York amid diplomatic efforts to salvage historic summit, confirms Donald Trump

Seoul: US President Donald Trump confirmed in a tweet that Kim Yong-chol, a former spy chief and trusted adviser to North Korea’s leader, was on his way for what would be the highest-level meeting in this week’s flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at salvaging the historic summit.

 Top North Korean envoy leaves for New York amid diplomatic efforts to salvage historic summit, confirms Donald Trump

File image of US president Donald J Trump. AP

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday. "Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young-chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”

Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and formerly head of a top North Korean military intelligence agency, will meet Mike Pompeo later this week, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

“The United States continues to actively prepare for President Trump’s expected summit with leader Kim in Singapore,” she said.

But she stopped short of saying the meeting had been reinstated after Trump canceled it last week in a letter to Kim, citing “open hostility” in North Korean statements.

This week's talks are aimed at determining whether North Korea is prepared to make sufficient commitments toward getting rid of its nuclear weapons, a US official said, despite Pyongyang's insistence it will not unilaterally denuclearize.

Trump thinks “ongoing discussions are going very well,” Sanders said.

She was referring to talks over the weekend between United States and North Korean officials in the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas and a White House logistics team’s discussions with North Korean counterparts in Singapore.

The senior North Korean envoy was expected to arrive in the United States on Wednesday after speaking to Chinese officials in Beijing, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

The New York talks suggest that planning for the unprecedented summit, initially scheduled for 12 June, is now moving ahead and possibly into a more advanced phase.

Kim Yong-chol will be the most senior North Korean official to meet top officials for talks in the United States since Jo Myong-rok, a marshal, met then-President Bill Clinton at the White House in 2000.

Kim Yong-chol coordinated the North Korean president’s two meetings with Pompeo in April and May.

North Korea has faced years of isolation and economic sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.

The North had tested missiles believed to be capable of reaching the United States, but Trump has vowed not to let Pyongyang develop one that could deliver a nuclear warhead.

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Updated Date: May 30, 2018 09:39:15 IST