Pompeo, N. Korean official meet in New York, prepare for summit
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, May 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean official met in New York Wednesday as both sides push to salvage a highly anticipated summit between their leaders.
The two had a 90-minute working dinner at the Manhattan residence of the U.S. deputy representative to the United Nations, with 13 days to go until a potential June 12 summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, arrived at JFK International Airport earlier in the day, becoming the highest-ranking North Korean to visit the U.S. since 2000.
His meeting with Pompeo is expected to determine whether the two sides have enough common ground to go ahead with the summit on dismantling the North's nuclear weapons program in exchange for concessions.
"Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight," Pompeo tweeted after the dinner, along with photos of them shaking hands and clinking glasses over the table. "Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu."
The two officials plan to have a day full of meetings Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters in Washington. Pompeo is also scheduled to hold a press conference at the Palace Hotel at 2:15 p.m., according to the State Department.
Known as the North Korean leader's right-hand man, Kim Yong-chol is expected to carry a personal letter from Kim amid reports the young leader is committed to denuclearization and a meeting with Trump.
The U.S. president called off the summit last week, citing Kim's "open hostility." But he has since put it back on track following a conciliatory statement from the regime.
If held, the Trump-Kim meeting will be the first summit between the two countries that have long been at odds over the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which are now believed to be capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
Officials from both sides have been scrambling to make the summit happen, with separate teams dispatched to the inter-Korean border and Singapore to discuss the substance of any denuclearization agreement and logistical issues, respectively.
In New York, Kim Yong-chol and Pompeo are expected to push for a deal that will satisfy U.S. demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) and North Korean demands for CVIG, where G stands for security guarantees for the regime.
"I think we are looking for something historic," a senior State Department official said in a background briefing with reporters in New York. "I think we're looking for something that has never (been) done before."
What the North Koreans want is security, the official said, referencing the regime's long-held belief that nuclear weapons shield the country from a hostile United States.
"What we have to convince them is that, on the contrary, their nuclear program has made them less secure, that there's a better path forward," the official added. "We're willing to work with them to provide them the security guarantees they feel they need, and in fact, we're willing to go beyond that to help them have greater economic prosperity. But they have to denuclearize."
This is the third sit-down between Pompeo and Kim. They also met during the American diplomat's two trips to Pyongyang in April and May.
The secretary of state left for New York after meeting with the president at the White House.
"Looking forward to meeting with Kim Yong Chol in New York to discuss @Potus potential summit with Chairman Kim," Pompeo tweeted, using the shorthand for president of the United States. "We are committed to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
There is speculation that Kim Yong-chol could visit Washington and meet with Trump. On both of his trips to Pyongyang, Pompeo held talks with the North Korean leader.
But Kim is under U.S. sanctions for his alleged role in North Korea's nuclear program and other illicit activities, including the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors.
He was likely granted a temporary waiver to travel to New York, and further approval would be required to travel to Washington.
Upon arrival in New York, the former spy chief was escorted out of the airport by U.S. State Department officials, according to a North Korean official who spoke to reporters waiting for his arrival. He was not seen at the arrivals hall.
A convoy of cars later pulled up in front of the Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza hotel. The vice chairman emerged but did not answer questions from the media as he entered the building.
Source: Yonhap News Agency