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Kim-Trump summit: Top officials meet to salvage summit

handout photograph from US Department of State shows Kim Yong-chol (L), vice chairman of North Korea, during his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) on May 30, 2018 in New YorkImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

Until recently, Kim Yong-chol (left) was blacklisted in the United States

The right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York to discuss a historic summit.

Gen Kim Yong-chol dined with Mr Pompeo after flying in from China, and the two are due to meet again on Thursday.

He is the most senior North Korean to visit the US in nearly 20 years.

US President Donald Trump told reporters he expects Gen Kim to come to Washington DC on Friday and deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un.

The president said he “looks forward” to reading the letter, and that talks are going “very well” between the two sides.

President Trump cancelled the 12 June summit, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to revive the plan.

Scheduled to happen in Singapore, the historic meeting between Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders.

What do we know of the first meeting?

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AFP

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They met in an apartment on New York’s East Side

On Wednesday evening, Mr Pompeo and Gen Kim arrived separately at a building close to the UN headquarters.

Emerging later, Mr Pompeo tweeted: “Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu.”

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Pompeo had set out the US position.

North Korea has strongly objected to statements by Trump administration members comparing North Korean denuclearisation to Libya’s.

Former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear programme only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders confirmed the US and North Korean leaders still planned to meet next month.

“As the president says, if it happens, we’ll certainly be ready,” she said.

Salvaging a summit?

By Barbara Plett Usher, BBC state department correspondent in New York

Just months ago the idea that this powerful North Korean official could visit New York was unthinkable. Until recently Kim Yong-chol was blacklisted in the US.

A senior state department official said he and Mr Pompeo were trying to get to know each other after initial meetings in Pyongyang earlier this year.

But he also said they needed to reduce the gap between them over the extent and pace of nuclear disarmament before the summit could go ahead. He also acknowledged that the US had to find a way to convince the North Korean leadership it would be secure without such weapons.

But this high-level meeting shows that President Trump and Kim Jong-un want the summit to take place, and therefore many believe these two men will find a way to make it happen.

Who else has been talking?

North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui has also met Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea, at Panmunjom on the border between the two Koreas.

The two diplomats have faced one another before during previous denuclearisation negotiations.

Media captionThe nuclear word Trump and Kim can’t agree on

In Singapore itself, a US team led by White House official Joe Hagin is thought to be meeting Kim Chang-son, the de facto chief of staff to the North Korean leader, to talk about logistics.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Pyongyang for talks with Mr Kim, the first time the North Korean leader has met a senior Russian official.

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AFP

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Sergei Lavrov arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday

Mr Lavrov extended an invitation to Mr Kim to visit Moscow.

Mr Lavrov also spoke to Mr Pompeo for the first time on Wednesday, by phone.

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