A top North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week during a visit to the United States, a White House spokeswoman said on Tuesday, before a planned summit between the American and North Korean leaders.
The North Korean official is headed to New York to discuss an upcoming summit, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, the latest indication that an on-again-off-again meeting between Trump and North Korea's leader may go ahead next month.
"We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea," Trump said in a Twitter post. "Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young (sic) 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, was scheduled to fly to the United States on Wednesday after speaking to Chinese officials in Beijing, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing an unidentified source.
The talks indicate that planning for the unprecedented summit, initially scheduled for June 12, is moving ahead after Trump called it off last week in a letter to the North's leader, Kim Jong Un.
- Trump: 'Still looking at' June 12 summit with North Korea's Kim
- Kim Jong Un committed to 'complete' denuclearization, South Korea's Moon says
- U.S. officials reportedly in North Korea for Trump-Kim summit prep
A day later, Trump, who frequently exchanged insults with Kim Jong Un before they began talking about a summit, said he had reconsidered and officials from both countries were meeting to work out details.
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 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in April and May. He and Kim Jong Un's sister were the only North Korean officials to attend the first inter-Korean summit in April alongside the North Korean leader.
Analysts believe the United States is trying to determine whether North Korea is willing to agree to sufficient steps toward getting rid of its nuclear weapons to allow a summit to take place.