The highest-ranking North Korean emissary to meet with a United States official in almost two decades was heading to New York City on Wednesday for a confab with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a landmark summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un hangs in the balance.
Kim Yong-chol, the right-hand man of leader Kim Jong-un, is the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years.
North Korea's mission to the United Nations in NY is its sole diplomatic presence in the U.S. That suggests Kim Yong-chol might have chosen to first go to NY because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official met in NY on Wednesday over a steak dinner to try to salvage next month's summit between the North Korean and US leaders.
Kim flew from Pyongyang to Beijing Tuesday with North Korean officials including Choe Kang-il, acting director general for North American affairs in its Foreign Ministry, and Kim Song-hye, a senior official from the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party. Kim was headed to NY for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The top US diplomat and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's right-hand man broke bread - and a few more things besides - at a luxury building complex on New York's East Side on Wednesday evening.
Sanders said Wednesday the delegation's talks along the Korean Demilitarized Zone have been "positive" and that preparation was continuing apace for the summit. North Korea has defined security as obtaining the deterrent of nuclear weapons.
It will be the third meeting between Pompeo, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency before becoming secretary of state, and Kim Yong Chol since April. That suggests Kim might have chosen to first go to NY because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
In Singapore, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin was meeting with a North Korean team to work out the logistics of the summit.
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The US delegation's hotel in Seoul, the Four Seasons, is besieged by South Korean reporters, waiting to see if they leave for discussions in Panmunjom, approximately 45 minutes' drive north of the capital. His portfolio includes North Korea's relationship with China and, lately, the United States.
Mr Trump has said he remains hopeful he can negotiate a new meeting between the two countries on June 12.
The Trump administration, according to US officials, has left open the possibility of North Korea eventually getting USA aid and investments if Pyongyang agrees to complete denuclearization.
"I want it to be meaningful", he added.
However, officials both sides have since said they are still working toward making the June 12 meeting happen.
Trump's unpredictability sparked a surprise meeting on Saturday between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in - only the fourth time leaders from the two countries have ever met - as they scrambled to get the talks back on track.
Daily Beast contributor Gordon Chang on North Korea's response to President Trump canceling his meeting with Kim Jong Un and the Trump administration's deal with Chinese company ZTE.
Separately on Wednesday at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Admiral Harry Harris, the outgoing head of U.S. Pacific Command who is Trump's pick to be the ambassador to South Korea, said North Korea remained the United States' most imminent threat. North Korea has made it clear they seek security guarantees for the regime before considering a phased out denuclearization.