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US’s Pompeo meets senior North Korean official in New York

This handout photograph, courtesy of the US Department of State, shows Kim Yong-chol (L), the vice chairman of North Korea, being greeted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) in New York, on May 30, 2018. (Via AFP)

High-ranking officials from the United States and North Korea have met in New York to discuss a possible summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung-un.

Kim Yong-chol, considered the right-hand man of the North Korean leader, arrived at a New York apartment near the United Nations headquarters late on Wednesday and privately met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for about 90 minutes over dinner, according to the latest reports.

As the dinner was being served inside the apartment on New York’s East Side neighborhood, a senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified, briefed reporters about the meeting.

Pompeo and Kim “are trying to get to know each other” following two initial meetings earlier this year in North Korea, the US official said.

He added that before any summit between the US and North Korean leaders could take place, Pyongyang was “going to have to make clear what they are willing to do” in response to Washington’s demand that North Korea permanently end its nuclear and missile activities.

The official also said that Trump “can make a fly or no-fly decision anytime he wants,” a reference to a Trump decision whether or not to travel to Singapore for the summit with Kim, which has been originally scheduled for June 12.

If enough progress is not made, the official said, “we will ramp up the pressure on them (the North Koreans) and we’ll be ready for the day that, hopefully, they are ready.”

A series of US demands and threats — which have offended North Korea — have cast doubt on whether Trump and Kim will go ahead and meet.

Trump officially cancelled the meeting on May 24 before retracting that cancellation just one day later.

The US has demanded that North Korea give up its nuclear program at one stage, while Pyongyang has rejected that “one-sided” approach to potential negotiations.

Trump has also threatened the North Korean leader with the same fate as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi if Pyongyang does not make a deal with Washington.

The original summit announcement came after several months of unprecedented cordial diplomacy between South and North Koreas, which had been adversaries for decades.

Russian foreign minister in Pyongyang

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Pyongyang.

“Sergei Lavrov, foreign minister of the Russian Federation, arrived here on Thursday at the invitation of Ri Yong-ho, foreign minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea),” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a brief dispatch, without providing further details.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (front) walks down the airplane as he arrives in Pyongyang, North Korea, on May 31, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Russia's Tass news agency announced that the two foreign ministers had started talks at the Supreme People’s Assembly building in Pyongyang.

Earlier in the day, Lavrov had said they would discuss “vital issues of bilateral relations and key international and regional issues.”

Lavrov met with his North Korean counterpart in Moscow in April during a flurry of diplomatic efforts to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Following their meeting, the top Russian diplomat said he had accepted Ri’s invitation to travel to Pyongyang.

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