U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that a top North Korean official is headed to New York for talks on an upcoming summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as diplomatic efforts also accelerated in Asia.Trump said in a tweet that Kim Yong Chol was traveling to New York as part of ongoing meetings between the two countries to arrange the summit on the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
South Korean media earlier reported that Kim Yong Chol’s name was on the passenger list for a fight Wednesday from Beijing to New York. Kim was seen in the Beijing airport on Tuesday by Associated Press Television.
Trump tweeted: “We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. 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 is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee. He would be the highest-level North Korean official to travel to the United States since 2000, when late National Defense Commission First Vice Chairman Jo Myong Rok visited Washington, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, twice in recent weeks for meetings with Kim Jong Un, after which he said there was a “shared understanding” between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in the summit. It remained unclear whom Kim Yong Chol will meet in the United States.
Meanwhile, a team of American diplomats involved in preparatory discussions was seen leaving a Seoul hotel on Tuesday, but it was unclear whether they went to Panmunjom, a village that straddles the border inside the Demilitarized Zone, to continue talks with their North Korean counterparts following their first meeting on Sunday. The U.S. officials are led by Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to Manila, who formerly was the U.S. ambassador to Seoul and a top negotiator with North Korea in past nuclear talks.