North Korea won’t denuclearize, but may open burger joint instead, report says

Glen Norman
June 2, 2018

Trump tweeted early Tuesday: "We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea". As Kim and Pompeo were meeting in NY, other US teams were meeting with North Korean officials in Singapore and in the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Trump tweeted earlier on Tuesday that the senior North Korean official was en route to the USA, calling the visit a "solid response" to his letter.

"I understand that Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol has arrived in Beijing, will hold talks with Chinese officials at the airport and leave for the US tomorrow", a source told the media outlet on condition of anonymity.

But since he sent the letter, Trump has suggested a summit in Singapore could still happen. Officials are discussing the substance of any summit agreement, focusing on the thorny issue of denuclearization, with a North Korean team led by Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui.

North Korean general Kim Yong-chol is reportedly heading to Washington DC via Beijing as part of the preparations for a summit between North Korea and the United States to be held in Singapore in June.

Kim is one of several North Korean officials under USA sanctions, but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was sure appropriate administrative steps had been taken to allow him to visit NY unmolested.

"The president and prime minister affirmed the shared imperative of achieving the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs".

The United States and South Korea blacklisted him for supporting the North's nuclear and missile programs in 2010 and 2016, respectively, so a visit to the United States would indicate a waiver was granted. Seoul did not confirm reports that the North Korean officials were headed by Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un's close associate, and that his American counterpart would likely be White House deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin. North Korea has also expressed a "fixed will" to return to the diplomatic table. Beijing backs the North's proposal for a phased and synchronized denuclearization process, while the United States insists on a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later.

Yonhap said Kim, who had arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, was travelling with five other North Korean officials.

On Monday, veteran American diplomat Sung Kim led an American delegation to Panmunjom at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) for talks with North Korean officials.

A team is also said to be in Singapore making logistical plans for the summit.

Despite the North's apparent eagerness for a summit with Trump, there are lingering doubts about whether Kim Jong Un will fully relinquish his nuclear weapons, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival.

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

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.

Now, it appears that Pompeo is getting ready for another round of discussions with Kim Yong Chol.

When Pence visited South Korea for the Olympics, he visited a memorial honoring the sailors who died.

The US has made a decision to hold off on implementing major new sanctions on North Korea while attempts to revive the summit are underway, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Kim Yong Chol, who is about 72, is a contentious figure outside North Korea.

The North has previously used the term to demand the United States pull out its 28,500 troops in South Korea and withdraw its so-called nuclear umbrella security commitment to South Korea and Japan.

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