Trump said in a tweet that Kim Yong Chol was traveling to New York as part of ongoing meetings between the two countries to arrange the summit on the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, AP reported.
South Korean media earlier reported that Kim Yong Chol’s name was on the passenger list for a fight Wednesday from Beijing to New York. Kim was seen in the Beijing airport on Tuesday.
Trump tweeted: “We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”
Kim Yong Chol is a former military intelligence chief and now a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee. He would be the highest-level North Korean official to travel to the United States since 2000, when late National Defense Commission First Vice Chairman Jo Myong Rok visited Washington, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, twice in recent weeks for meetings with Kim, after which he said there was a “shared understanding” between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in the summit. It remained unclear whom Kim Yong Chol will meet in the United States.
Meanwhile, a team of American diplomats involved in preparatory discussions was seen leaving a Seoul hotel on Tuesday, but it was unclear whether they went to Panmunjom, a village that straddles the border inside the Demilitarized Zone, to continue talks with their North Korean counterparts following their first meeting on Sunday.
The US-led United Nations Command canceled a press tour of Panmunjom scheduled for Wednesday, saying the decision was related to security preparations to accommodate the US-North Korea talks there. There will be no similar media events at the village until after June 12, the possible date of the summit between Trump and Kim, according to the command.
South Korean media also reported that a North Korean delegation arrived in Singapore on Monday night for likely summit preparations with US officials.
Trump withdrew from the planned summit with Kim last Thursday, citing hostile North Korean comments, but has since said the meeting in Singapore could still happen as originally scheduled on June 12. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has lobbied hard for nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim, met with the North Korean leader in a surprise meeting on Saturday in an effort to keep the summit alive.
In their second meeting in a month, Moon said Kim expressed willingness to cooperate to end confrontation and work toward peace for the sake of a successful summit with Trump. But Kim also said he was unsure whether he could trust the US over its promise to end hostile policies against North Korea and provide security assurances if the country does abandon its nuclear weapons, according to Moon.