Top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol heading to US

One of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's top officials arrived at Beijing airport on Wednesday on his way to the Unit...

Posted: May 30, 2018 12:51 PM
Updated: May 30, 2018 12:51 PM

One of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's top officials arrived at Beijing airport on Wednesday on his way to the United States where he is expected to help lay the groundwork for on-again, off-again talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

Trump himself confirmed the news of Kim Yong Chol's trip to the US early Tuesday, tweeting: "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 will meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later this week, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Once he touches down on American soil, Kim would be the most senior official to visit the United States since 2000, when Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok traveled to Washington to meet with former US President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. Then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to North Korea later that month.

His trip comes as the United States and North Korea attempt to revive the summit, a potential diplomatic triumph for two countries technically still at war.

The talks nearly fell apart last week when Trump said he was calling off the June 12 meeting in Singapore, following incendiary comments from a senior North Korean foreign ministry official who called Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy." The White House also said in a background briefing that North Korean officials hadn't answered their calls, frustrating their attempts to plan for the meeting.

But after a conciliatory statement from North Korea, Trump revived hopes for the meeting late Saturday night. Over the weekend Kim Jong Un called an impromptu meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the Demilitarized Zone and reiterated his commitment to denuclearizing.

Kim's right hand man

Kim Yong Chol and Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, have been two of the most visible and important players in Pyongyang's push for rapprochement with South Korea and the United States this year.

Kim Yong Chol's trip to the US indicates that Washington and Pyongyang have direct lines of communication open and are working closely together to work though issues ahead of the summit.

Pyongyang's foreign ministers regularly travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, but this will be a much higher level presence with Kim Yong Chol's appearance at the international body headquarters.

"There is a power going to enemy territory. The act itself builds confidence on both sides," said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University's Graduate school of International Studies.

"It shows a healthy process of the two sides working with sincerity to fundamentally change the relationship."

Kim Yong Chol is the vice chairman of North Korea's Party Central Committee, and is Kim Jong Un's top official in charge of relations between North and South Korea. He's often pictured with the North Korean leader and attended his two recent meetings with South Korea's President Moon at the DMZ that divides the two Koreas.

Kim Yong Chol has already met at least one senior US official. He was pictured greeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when the former CIA director visited Pyongyang earlier this month.

Kim Yong Chol was part of the delegation from the North that traveled South in February for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, a decision that surprised many considering he was believed to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors while serving as North Korea's top intelligence official.

A busy weekend

The White House has dispatched officials across the globe to prepare for the possible summit.

A team of US officials traveled to North Korea Sunday for talks with their North Korean counterparts. The team from Washington includes Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea and special representative for North Korea policy; Randall G. Schriver, the assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; and Allison Hooker, director for Korea on the White House's National Security Council.

Talks could potentially resume Wednesday at the DMZ, a person familiar with North Korea-US relations told CNN.

Representatives from Washington and Pyongyang have also been sent to Singapore, the island city-state that has agreed to host the talks, the first between a North Korean leader and sitting US President.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK posted footage online of a North Korean official at Singapore International Airport Monday, the same day US officials arrived for talks on logistics.

The diplomatic scramble follows a last-minute meeting between Kim and Moon on the northern side of the DMZ Saturday to discuss the next steps after Trump's surprise cancellation.

As Moon revealed the substance of their discussion in a press briefing Sunday, President Trump announced that the meeting was back on.

"We're looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn't changed."

Moon told reporters Kim requested the meeting with him on Friday afternoon, in what was only the fourth encounter between the leaders of North and South Korea.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 36578

Reported Deaths: 2258
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10188604
Lake3876207
Allen181071
Cass15919
Elkhart158528
St. Joseph135838
Hendricks120478
Hamilton119194
Johnson1125113
Madison60061
Porter56233
Clark53942
Bartholomew53139
LaPorte44824
Howard44236
Tippecanoe4344
Jackson4012
Delaware39741
Shelby39722
Hancock35427
Boone32436
Floyd31941
Vanderburgh2913
Morgan28626
Noble27821
Montgomery24917
Clinton2471
White2399
Decatur23132
Grant22923
Dubois2113
Kosciusko2052
Harrison19622
Marshall1872
Henry18512
Vigo1828
Greene17226
Dearborn17122
Monroe17113
Lawrence17124
Warrick16729
Miami1461
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
LaGrange1282
Scott1263
Franklin1168
Ripley1086
Daviess10416
Carroll952
Wayne906
Steuben902
Wabash812
Newton8010
Fayette797
Jasper741
Jay580
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Fulton511
Washington501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb451
Starke423
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Wells350
Owen341
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford250
Adams231
Switzerland220
Spencer221
Fountain222
Gibson202
Parke180
Posey160
Martin140
Warren131
Ohio130
Vermillion100
Union100
Pike60
Unassigned0180

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 125915

Reported Deaths: 5795
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook813443880
Lake8647334
DuPage7997394
Kane6672205
Will5799285
Winnebago246566
McHenry167779
St. Clair126292
Kankakee98954
Kendall83919
Rock Island70325
Champaign6777
Madison62465
Boone49817
DeKalb4508
Sangamon36029
Peoria30111
Jackson30010
Randolph2734
McLean22613
Ogle2253
Stephenson2115
Macon20020
Clinton19017
Union17114
LaSalle16016
Whiteside14913
Coles13817
Iroquois1355
Warren1220
Out of IL1161
Grundy1112
Knox1020
Jefferson10116
Monroe10012
McDonough9113
Unassigned900
Lee821
Tazewell815
Cass760
Williamson753
Henry700
Pulaski580
Marion520
Jasper467
Macoupin462
Adams441
Morgan421
Perry420
Vermilion421
Montgomery411
Livingston362
Christian354
Jo Daviess321
Douglas280
Jersey241
Menard220
Bureau211
Fayette213
Ford211
Woodford212
Washington190
Mason180
Mercer180
Carroll172
Hancock171
Shelby161
Alexander140
Schuyler130
Bond121
Franklin120
Fulton120
Moultrie120
Clark110
Crawford110
Johnson110
Logan110
Piatt110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Wayne91
Effingham81
Henderson80
Massac70
Saline70
Greene60
Wabash60
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland40
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Terre Haute
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 61°
Robinson
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
62° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 62°
Rockville
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 57°
Casey
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 65°
Brazil
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Marshall
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Mostly sunny and hot
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Art honors Hoosier pilot

Image

Protesters gather for change

Image

Free Fishing Weekend

Image

First outdoor market of summer in Terre Haute

Image

Individual diploma presentations

Image

Protesters demand justice for George Floyd

Image

1 injured in ATV accident

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Umpires

Image

The Salvation Army and the historic origins of National Donut Day

WTHI Events