North Korean ‘spymaster’ Kim Yong-chol meets Mike Pompeo in New York ahead of planned Trump summit
Kim Jong-un’s envoy had dinner with Mike Pompeo in New York on Wednesday night to try to reinstate plans to hold a summit between Donald Trump and the North Korean leader.
Kim Yong-chol, a 73-year-old general described as the ultimate regime insider, is the highest North Korean official to visit the United States in almost 20 years. The previous top ranking envoy was Jo Myong-rok, a vice marshal, sent to Washington DC in 2000.
Mr Kim, who had to be granted a waiver from sanctions to travel, landed at New York’s JFK airport on Wednesday afternoon.
He was head of the RGB, North Korea’s spy service, from 2009 to 2016 during the time the spy agency is believed responsible for the 2010 torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors were killed.
He was also in charge of the agency during the 2014 hacking attack against Sony.
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Mr Kim, who has served three generations of North Korea’s ruling family, was then driven to a hotel close to the United Nations, in midtown Manhattan. There he had dinner with the US secretary of state for about an hour and a half.
Mr Kim and Mr Pompeo were expected to discuss ways to proceed with a summit, planned for June 12 in Singapore, between the leaders of the US and North Korea.
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"We’re continuing to prepare for the meeting between the president and the North Korean leader," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu. pic.twitter.com/1pu4K3oym7
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 31, 2018
"As the president says, if it happens, we’ll certainly be ready.
"We’ve got not only the meeting that you just mentioned; Secretary of State Pompeo is meeting with the president currently. And when he finishes that meeting, he’ll be headed to New York for a dinner tonight, as well as a day full of meetings tomorrow."
Mr Trump cancelled the summit on May 24, but 24 hours later, when the North Koreans issued a statement regretting the cancellation, said he was still open to the possibility of going ahead.
A team from Washington has travelled to Singapore to press ahead with preparations, and another group are meeting at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea to further discuss the meeting.
NBC news on Tuesday night quoted US officials as saying a new intelligence assessment advised that the regime in Pyongyang had no intention of dismantling its nuclear arsenal in the near future.
However, the officials told NBC that Kim Jong-un was willing to open a western burger franchise in Pyongyang as a gesture of goodwill.