Kim-Trump summit: Top officials meet to salvage summit

Image source, 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 and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have concluded two days of talks in New York.

Gen Kim Yong-chol flew from China on Wednesday to discuss a historic summit between the two nation's leaders.

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

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

Speaking aboard Air Force One on his way to Texas, Mr Trump said the envoy will "be coming most likely tomorrow to the White House to present me with a letter from Kim Jong-un".

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?

Thursday's talks concluded early due to progress being made, a US state department official said.

Mr Pompeo tweeted after the meeting that the talks had been "substantive".

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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.

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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.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
They met in an apartment on New York's East Side

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 caption,
The 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.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
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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