Korean official to meet in New York: White House

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US President Donald Trump confirmed on Tuesday that a senior North Korean official is headed to NY for talks as preparations for his historic summit with Kim Jong Un gather pace.

The U.S. officials are led by Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to Manila, who formerly was the U.S. ambassador to Seoul and a top negotiator with North Korea in past nuclear talks.

The man blamed by South Korea for the 2010 sinking of a warship that killed 46 sailors will become the most senior North Korean to step on U.S. soil in almost two decades. Sung Kim, the former USA ambassador to South Korea who is now ambassador to the Philippines, led that American delegation, a USA official told Reuters. "Solid response to my letter, thank you!" he tweeted.

The diplomacy in advance of the summit has had highs and lows, including Trump backing away from the meeting, then saying it could still happen in Singapore on June 12, as initially scheduled.

Meanwhile, Russia announced Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit North Korea on Thursday and hold talks with his counterpart about the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim is a top lieutenant to Kim Jong Un, and his trip to the US suggests that preparations for a summit between the North's leader and Trump are in the final stages.

The USA's ambassador to the Philippines is playing a key role in setting up the on-off-on meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

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Kim Yong-chol accompanied Kim Jong-un at all of his recent meetings with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, according to North Korean state-media reports.

They discussed their shared goal of achieving "the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs".

The North had tested missiles believed to be capable of reaching the United States, but Trump has vowed not to let Pyongyang develop one that could deliver a nuclear warhead.

He is often referred to as Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's right-hand man and is notionally forbidden to travel to the States, having been twice sanctioned by Washington. "The fact that Kim Yong-chol is visiting the US - that in itself means that coordination between the two is nearly over, . with only a few factors left to be resolved".

South Korean media also reported that a North Korean delegation arrived in Singapore on Monday night for likely summit preparations with US officials. Associated Press journalists saw the plane taxi down the tarmac before the North's delegation disembarked at JFK International Airport.

At the same time, a "pre-advance" United States team was traveling to Singapore to meet North Koreans, the White House said.

The April 27 inter-Korean summit, which produced a vague declaration to work toward denuclearization and a peace treaty for the Korean Peninsula, was meant to serve as a springboard for talks between US and North Korean leaders.

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Kim Yong Chol's visit to the United States seems to suggest both Washington and Pyongyang are determined to see the talks move forward.

During his time as North Korea's military intelligence chief, Gen Kim was accused of masterminding attacks on the South Korea warship Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. North Korea has officially denied the incident.

Ivanka Trump and Kim Yong Chol at the closing ceremony for the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018.

He now serves as head of the United Front Department, the arm of the ruling Workers' Party that handles relations with South Korea.

Moon said on Monday there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit. But history shows that such trips don't always lead to summits: The high hopes raised by a similar North Korean mission to Washington to set up a summit 18 years ago ended up dashed.

North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programs as a deterrent against what it sees as US aggression.

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