A senior North Korean official and the top USA diplomat had dinner in NY on Wednesday as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un try to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit.
The tensions have once again cooled in the wake of Trump's letter and Trump has made clear he is eager for the summit to take place on June 12 - but USA officials have warned publicly and privately that they would be strained to reschedule the summit for that date.
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Closing ceremony - Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 25, 2018 - Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, arrives at the closing ceremony.
Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, is traveling to NY and will meet with Pompeo "later this week", White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
A State Department spokeswoman confirmed that delegations from the U.S. and North Korea were still in talks to possibly go ahead with the June 12 meeting, which had been canceled by Trump on Thursday citing "open hostility" from Kim.
Russian Federation said Wednesday that its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will travel to North Korea for talks on Thursday.
Trump withdrew from a planned June 12 summit with Kim last Thursday, citing hostile North Korean comments, but has since said the meeting in Singapore could still happen.
In Washington, lawmakers and former USA intelligence officials expressed general support Sunday for proceeding with the summit, but many reacted skeptically to North Korea's suggestion that it is open to discussing denuclearization.
"We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea", the president tweeted Tuesday morning. US officials familiar with planning said he was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday.
Both sides have been eager to hold the meeting after tensions flared past year over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests. The North's arsenal now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and developmental long-range missiles potentially capable of reaching mainland USA cities.
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The right-hand men of Kim Jong-un and President Trump will be meeting soon in NY.
It has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its "nuclear umbrella" alliance with Seoul.
It remains far from clear how Trump and Kim might be able to bridge what appear to be vast differences in their expectations for what would be a historic meeting. Representatives from North Korea will arrive in Beijing where you will visit Singapore.
When Kim Chang-son was asked by a reporter at Beijing airport if he was flying to Singapore for talks with the U.S., he said he was "going there to play", according to footage from Nippon Television Network.
The White House says President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plan to meet in advance of the "expected meeting" between Trump and North Korea's leader. Another U.S. delegation was in Singapore to work on logistics.
But Trump accompanied the cancellation with a letter to Kim that mixed tough language with an nearly beseeching plea to get things back on track.
Kim Yong Chol previously was chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a top North Korean military intelligence agency, and has spent almost 30 years as a senior member of the intelligence community. His visit to the U.S. would indicate a waiver was granted.
Kim Yong Chol's visit to the U.S. seems to suggest both Washington and Pyongyang are determined to see the talks move forward. During Saturday's inter-Korean summit, the Korean leaders agreed to "positively cooperate with each other as ever to improve (North Korea)-U.S. relations and establish (a) mechanism for permanent and durable peace".
North Korea also demanded the United States stop military exercises with South Korea if it truly wished for talks with North Korea, the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said. The nuclear confrontation deepened in 2002, with the Bush administration accusing North Korea of running a clandestine uranium enrichment program in breach of a 1994 disarmament deal.
North Korea denied any involvement in both attacks.
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Shortly afterward, however, the U.S. president said that he was still open to the meeting with the North Korean leader. Commenting the meeting on Twitter, Mr Pompeo said: "Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in NY tonight".
I feel so empowered by @iamwandasykes, Channing Dungey and anyone at ABC standing up for morals and abuse of power. Barr later deleted the tweet and said it was a joke, adding "I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans".
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