Monday, 4 June 2018

Top North Korea Officials Arrive New York To Prep Nuclear Summit

Kim Jong Un's right-hand man flew to New York on Wednesday to talk with President Donald Trump's top diplomat in the middle of a fight to organize the historic nuclear summit next month between the North Korean and American leaders.

Kim Yong Chol, a veteran powerful player from Pyongyang and a member of the inner circle of the young autocrat, arrived on an Air China flight from Beijing, becoming the highest ranking official in North Korea to visit the United States in 18 years.

He had to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who saw Trump before leaving Washington for dinner on Wednesday and talking on Thursday to finalize the planning for a June 12 summit aimed at ending a nuclear standoff that once threatened to push back Korea in war

Envoys from the United States and North Korea have also met in Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, and a US "pre-advance" team is in Singapore to make logistical arrangements for the planned meeting quickly. .

"So far, the reading of these meetings has been positive and we will continue to move forward with them," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, confirming that the plan is still for the leaders to meet in Singapore on June 12.

But with 13 days to go, the talks between General Kim and Pompeo, the former CIA chief who pioneered the last round of face-to-face meetings, seemed to confirm that the process of getting two unpredictable leaders on the table now It is underway.

As the president says, if it happens, we will certainly be ready, "Sanders said.

Earlier this month, Trump suddenly announced briefly the cancellation of the summit after North Korea issued a strong rebuke of what he considered a threatening language for the US side, and the US side warned that talks could be postponed if Kim did not speaks seriously disarming.

"Again, denuclearization must be on the table and be the focus of the meeting, and the president has to feel that we are making progress on that front, and the only one who will make that determination will be the president," Sanders said Tuesday.

But the summit seems increasingly likely to advance, amid a flurry of international diplomatic activity.

Moscow said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to North Korea on Thursday to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program. Pompeo and Lavrov spoke on the phone for the first time on Wednesday, but the accounts of the convocation offices did not mention Korea.

Pompeo called his counterparts from South Korea and Singapore over the weekend and Japan is also watching preparations for the summit. Trump will meet with his Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in Washington on June 7.

On Sunday, US negotiators, led by Washington's ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, began meeting with their North Korean counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom, which divides the two Koreas.

"They plan to have additional meetings this week," Sanders said.

Kim Yong Chol will be the highest in North Korea on US soil since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok met with then President Bill Clinton in 2000.
The general has played a leading role during the last rounds of diplomacy aimed at ending the nuclear stalemate in the Korean peninsula.

He sat next to Trump's daughter, Ivanka, who is also an assistant to the White House, during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, an event that was seen as a turning point in the nuclear crisis.

He also accompanied Kim Jong Un on his two recent trips to China to meet President Xi Jinping, and held talks with Pompeo when he traveled to Pyongyang.

- Huge gap -
General Kim's trip to the US UU It closes frantic days of meetings between North Korean and American officials.

An AFP photographer saw Kim Chang Son, de facto chief of staff of Kim Jong Un, in Singapore on Tuesday for preparatory discussions there.

The key task is to solve the agenda. The main obstacle is probably the concept of "denuclearization": both sides say they want it, but there is a big gap between their definitions.

Washington wants North Korea to quickly relinquish all its nuclear weapons verifiably in exchange for sanctions and economic relief.

But analysts say North Korea will not be willing to give up its nuclear deterrent unless it is given security guarantees that the United States will not try to overthrow the regime.

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