New York, May 31 (IANS) Senior North Korean official Kim Yong-chol met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, ahead of a historic summit between the leaders of the two countries.
Kim, the most senior North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years, was seen exiting the Corinthian building in Manhattan at around 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, following a dinner with Pompeo, reports CNN.
The meeting came as the two sides look to revive the prospects of an on-again off-again summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, originally scheduled for June 12 but later cancelled by Trump.
A senior State Department official described Wednesday’s dinner as an opportunity for the two men to strengthen their relationship and discuss preparations.
Prior to Kim Yong-chol’s arrival in New York, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the officials’ “conversation is going to be focused on denuclearization of the peninsula as well as the summit that will take place in Singapore”, adding that the administration was still aiming for a June 12 meeting.
“We are preparing and expect that to take place on June 12 and if not, we’ll be ready on July 12,” CNN quoted Sanders as saying earlier on Wednesday.
Kim Yong-chol is seen as a powerful surrogate for Kim Jong-un.
The vice chairman of North Korea’s Party Central Committee, he is the top official in charge of relations between North and South Korea and has been present in all recent high-level meetings with South Korea.
He is also a former head of North Korea’s Reconnaissance Bureau, an espionage and special operations organization.
He is believed to have been involved in a torpedo attack that sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in 2010, killing 46 South Korean sailors.
Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol’s high-level discussions come as a US delegation extended its stay in South Korea “for at least another day”.
The US delegation, led by Philippines Ambassador Sung Kim, had been meeting their North Korean counterparts at the Demilitarized Zone since Monday.