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Key North Korea official meets Pompeo in New York

Key North Korea official meets Pompeo in New York

The right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York to discuss a historic summit.

Gen Kim Yong-chol dined with Mr Pompeo after flying in from China, and the two are due to meet again on Thursday.

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

US President Donald Trump cancelled the 12 June summit, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.

Scheduled to happen in Singapore, the historic meeting would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders.

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What do we know of the first meeting?

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.

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.

Further talks are planned for Thursday.

What other talks are going on?

Choe Son-hui, North Korea’s vice-foreign minister, is continuing to meet Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea, at Panmunjom on the border between the two Koreas.

These talks have been continuing since Sunday with some long breaks.

The two diplomats have faced one another before during previous denuclearisation negotiations.

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.

And Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has arrived in Pyongyang for talks. He told Russian media he wanted to understand North Korea’s position.

Mr Lavrov also spoke to Mr Pompeo for the first time on Wednesday, by phone.

White House spokesperson 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.

Salvaging a summit?

By Barbara Plett Usher, BBC state department correspondent in New York

The tone from the White House has been upbeat in recent days and Sarah Sanders sounded optimistic that the summit would go ahead on 12 June, as originally planned.

She would not say, though, what exactly Mike Pompeo needed to hear from Kim Yong-chol in order to make that happen.

Gen Kim is a seasoned nuclear negotiator and trusted aid to Kim Jong-un. He would have the authority to give details about what Pyongyang can and cannot put on the table when it comes to negotiations on dismantling its nuclear weapons.

The fact that such a high-level North Korean official has come to the US to try and patch things up shows how much both leaders want the summit to go ahead.

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