Senior North Korean official heads to US

Man described as Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man heads to the United States to set up Singapore summit
SEOUL: One of North Korea’s most influential officials is on his way to the United States where he will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
Kim Yong-chol, a vice central committee chairman of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, is expected to meet Pompeo in New York later this week.
The notorious former spy chief’s very presence on American soil would be an indicator that negotiations are going well to lay the groundwork for an unprecedented summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Trump later confirmed Kim Yong-chol’s visit, saying the North Korean vice chairman is on his way to the U.S.
“Solid response to my letter, thank you!” Trump wrote on Twitter, apparently referencing a letter he sent to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week calling off their planned meeting before re-engaging in efforts to put the talks back on track.
Kim Yong-chol’s trip had been predicted as a final step to confirm preparations for the planned Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore on June 12, which was cancelled and then seemingly resurrected.
An American delegation led by ex-nuclear negotiator Sung Kim has also been in talks this week with counterparts from the North at the inter-Korean border.
A diplomatic source told Yonhap that they were set to continue their dialogue until around Wednesday, having started on Sunday to discuss the delicate matter of how North Korea will fulfill its recent vow to denuclearize and what security guarantees may be offered by the U.S.
But it appears that Washington and Pyongyang are expecting the Trump-Kim summit to happen, as separate teams representing both sides were lined up to meet in Singapore Tuesday to handle practical issues such as security.
The White House confirmed Washington and Pyongyang are actively engaged to prepare for the “expected summit,” though it is unclear if it will go ahead as originally planned.
Separately, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders confirmed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Trump at the White House June 7. Abe has lobbied Washington to take a hard line against the North, and the meeting would take place just five days before the summit if it proceeds as originally planned.–AA

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