Netizen 24 CAN: Donald Trump confirms top North Korean official heading to New York City

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Donald Trump confirms top North Korean official heading to New York City

World May 29, 2018 7:15 am Updated: May 29, 2018 7:23 am Donald Trump confirms top North Korean official heading to New York City

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2018, file photo, Kim Yong Chol, center, a vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, leaves to return to North Korea, at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea.;

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2018, file photo, Kim Yong Chol, center, a vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, leaves to return to Nor th Korea, at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File

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U.S. President Donald Trump has confirmed that top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol is heading to New York for talks on an upcoming summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump tweeted early Tuesday: “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!”

South Korea’s Yonhap News said Tuesday it saw the name of Kim Yong Chol on the passengers’ list for a flight Tuesday from Beijing to Washington. They later reported that Kim changed his flight to go to New York on Wednesday.

Kim is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee tasked with inter-Korean relations.

READ MORE: American and North Korean officials meet in DMZ to plan Trump-Kim summit

A visit to the United States would be the highest-level North Korean official visit since 2000, when late National Defense Commission First Vice Chairman Jo Myong Rok visited Washington, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

The trip could be a reciprocal visit after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, twice in recent we eks 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 remains unclear whom Kim Yong Chol would meet in the United States if he goes.

In this image made from video, Kim Yong Chol, in white, a former military intelligence chief who is now Kim Jong Un’s top official on inter-Korean relations, walks upon arrival at Beijing airport in Beijing Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

In this image made from video, Kim Yong Chol, in white, a former military intelligence chief who is now Kim Jong Un’s top official on inter-Korean relations, walks upon arrival at Beijing airport in Beijing Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

AP Photo

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.

The U.S.-led United Nations Command canceled a press tour of Panmunjom scheduled for Wednesday, saying the decision was related to security preparations to accommodate the U.S.-North Korea talks there. There will be no similar media events at the village until after June 12, the possible date of the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to the command.

WATCH: U.S. delegation arrives in North Korea ahead as plans continue in hopes of summit

South Korean media also reported that a North Korean delegation arrived in Singapore on Monday night for likely summit preparations with U.S. officials. Seoul did not confirm reports that the North Korean officials were headed by Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un’s close associate, and that his American counterpart would likely be White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin.

Trump withdrew from the planned summit with Kim Jong Un last Thursday, citing hostile North Korean comments, but has since said the meeting in Singapore could still happen as originally scheduled on June 12. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has lobbied hard for nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim, met with the North Korean leader in a surprise meeting on Saturday in an effort to keep the summit alive.

In their second meeting in a month, Moon said Kim expressed willingness to cooperate to end confrontation and work toward peace for the sake of a successful summit with Trump. But Kim also said he was unsure whether he could trust the United States over its promise to end hostile policies against North Korea and provide security assurances if the country does abandon its nuclear weapons, according to Moon.

READ MORE: South Korean president holds surprise meeting with Kim Jong Un, reviving hopes of summit

At their first meeting on April 27, Kim and Moon announced vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to sell as a meaningful breakthrough that increases the chances of successful talks between Kim and Trump.

Their second meeting came after inter-Korean relations had chilled in recent weeks, with North Korea canceling a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea’s participatio n in a two-week military exercise with the United States that ended last week. The Koreas have agreed to put high-level discussions back on track with a meeting on Friday. But that did not stop North Korea’s state media from continuing its criticism of allied military exercises on Tuesday, saying if Washington “sincerely hopes for the talks, it should stop the acts of threatening its dialogue partner by force.”

Since the 1970s, the United States and South Korea have been holding a major summertime exercise called Ulchi Freedom Guardian that involves tens of thousands of troops. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday there have been no discussions yet between Washington and Seoul on modifying the drills, which usually take place in August.

WATCH: North Korea’s Kim committed to Trump summit

Despite Kim’s apparent eagerness for a summit with Trump, there are lingering doubts about whether he will fully relinquish his nuclear weapons, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival. Moon has insisted Kim can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way in exchange for credible security and economic guarantees.

U.S. and South Korean officials haven’t confirmed the details of the pre-summit negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang at the border.

The officials may discuss bridging the gap between the two sides on what a deal on the North’s nuclear weapons would look like. There’s also speculation that American officials are trying to persuade the North Koreans to export a certain number of their nuclear warheads overseas at an early stage as proof of their commitment to denuclearize.

READ MORE: North Korea says it demo lished nuclear test site with series of explosions

U.S. officials have talked about a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later. But Kim, through two summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and May, has called for a phased and synchronized process in which every action he takes is met with a reciprocal reward from the United States.

Seoul has been advocating an alternative approach in which the North’s comprehensive commitment and credible actions toward denuclearization are followed by a phased but compressed process of inspection and verifiable dismantling. Before he canceled the summit, Trump did not rule out an incremental approach that would provide incentives along the way to the North.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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