State Department Confirms Pompeo to Meet with North Korean Official

IS DETÉNTE ON OR OFF?

by Sharon Rondeau

(May 30, 2018) — The U.S. State Department confirmed Wednesday morning that its secretary, Mike Pompeo, will be meeting in New York City with a North Korean official in the wake of efforts to revitalize a meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

Since Trump canceled his attendance at the June 12 meeting, North Korea has made a number of apparent efforts to repair the rift arising from comments it made which Trump considered incendiary.

Nevertheless, in a letter sent to Jong-Un, Trump indicated that he was still open to meeting if Jong-Un “changed his mind.”

South Korean media reported on Tuesday that Kim Yong Chol had boarded a flight from Beijing, China on Tuesday en route to New York, which was confirmed by Trump in a tweet Tuesday morning.  Reports vary on his departure and expected arrival in the U.S. due to the time-zone difference.

The Guardian reports that Yong-Chol is “the ultimate North Korean regime insider,” having been stationed in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas and played a significant role in dialogue between the two countries during the 1990s.  He also headed North Korea’s intelligence apparatus for a seven-year period.

Yong-Chol is currently the vice chairman of the “Workers Party,” the only political party allowed in North Korea’s communist regime.

On Sunday, despite the cancellation, Trump tweeted his anticipation of meeting with Jong-Un at some point with “It will happen!”

The press release from the State Department is brief and does not confirm that the summit, originally planned for June 12 in Singapore, will take place on that date.  It states:

Secretary Pompeo will travel to New York City, May 30-31, to meet with DPRK Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee Kim Yong Chol. The Secretary and Vice-Chairman Kim will discuss preparations for President Trump’s expected summit with Chairman Kim Jong Un in Singapore. ‎

“DPRK” is the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. South Korea is known as the People’s Republic of Korea.

Since last summer when North Korea fired a series of missiles over northern Japan, rattling its neighbors and the rest of the world with the threat of a nuclear attack, Trump is indicated his goal for complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Thus far in the negotiations with North Korea, Trump has said that no financial reward has been remitted, including for the release on May 10 of three US citizens held by the regime for between one and two years.

Prior to the apparent suspension of the June 12 meeting, Pompeo had traveled to North Korea twice to meet with Jong-Un personally. Both Pompeo and Trump have expressed cautious optimism regarding the apparent détente between the US and the hermit nation, although Trump has often publicly said that he would walk away from negotiations or the meeting itself if he felt it did not benefit the United States.

Many doubt that Jong-Un will ultimately relinquish his nuclear arsenal, even with the lifting of harsh economic sanctions which have crippled the nation’s struggling economy.

Preparations for the summit are currently under way in Singapore.

Yong-Chul’s visit to the U.S. is the first of any North Korean official since 2000.

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