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Kim Yong-Chol in New York
Image: picture-alliance/AA/A. Ozdil

US, North Korea officials meet to salvage talks

May 31, 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un's right-hand man over "steak, corn, and cheese" in New York. Washington is pushing for "irreversible" denuclearization, but Pyongyang has yet to commit.


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Wednesday with Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The most senior North Korean to visit the US in almost 20 years, Kim opened negotiations with Pompeo to try and salvage what could be a historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

What we know about the meeting

  • Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol met for about 90 minutes over dinner.
  • The meeting took place inside a US diplomat's apartment on New York's East Side, just south of the United Nations headquarters.
  • The US Secretary of State said the dinner "was great" and that the two men dined on "American beef."
  • Further details of the meeting were not immediately made available by either of the two sides.
  • Trump said the meetings had gone "very well"
  • The Pyongyang delegation is expected in Washington on Friday to deliver Trump a letter from Kim Jong Un.

Read moreDonald Trump's steep learning curve on North Korea has a price

Sticking point: The issue of denuclearization remains a major bone of contention between Pyongyang and Washington. The US has been demanding that North Korea dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang argues that it needed nuclear weapons for its security. North Korea remains under international sanction because of its nuclear program.

Hectic diplomacy: The meeting was part of a flurry of diplomatic efforts to restore the highly anticipated Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. As Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol were talking over dinner, teams of US officials were meeting their North Korean counterparts in Singapore and in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Who is Kim Yong Chol? A former North Korean spy chief, Kim Yong Chol is among the most trusted aides of the North Korean leader. He is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee. Kim Yong Chol has played a major role in the recent thaw in North Korea's relations with South Korea and the US. He joined Kim Jong Un in both his meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April and May. He also hosted Pompeo during his recent Pyongyang visits.

What next? Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol are expected to hold a series of meetings on Thursday to ascertain whether the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, originally scheduled for June 12 but later canceled by Trump, can be restored. South Korean media speculated that Kim Yong Chol was carrying a personal letter from the North Korean leader and might travel to Washington to deliver it to Trump in person.

ap/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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