Senior N. Korean official's U.S. visit reminiscent of 2000 trip

The planned historic summit is a dramatic turnaround from President Trump pulling out of talks last week after a war of words with Mr Kim's regime

One of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's top officials is believed to be traveling to the United States as the two countries lay the groundwork for on-again, off-again talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

White House also said on Tuesday that Trump would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington on June 7.

He is among the small number of North Korean officials who have accompanied leader Kim Jong Un to all four of his recent summits- twice with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The call came as diplomatic efforts to salvage the summit, which now appears back on track despite Trump's letter, moved into high gear, with USA and North Korean officials meeting at the peace village of Panmunjom on the North-South border and in Singapore.

General Kim Yong Chol landed at Beijing airport on Tuesday and will journey on to NY on Wednesday, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk also did not say whether Seoul knew of any USA plans regarding Kim Yong Chol's visit, such as whether he and Pompeo would meet. The pair arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, reported.

Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee. American officials are now in North Korea to meet their counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom on demilitarized land near the South Korean border. 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.

"We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea", the president tweeted Tuesday morning.

The on-again-off-again talks, centred around denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula, have seen a flurry of activity in recent days since Trump sent a letter to Kim Jong-un calling off their high-stakes diplomatic date.

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But while Trump reportedly promised Abe in April that he would raise the abductee issue in his meeting with Kim Jong Un, Monday's White House statement did not say whether the President has reiterated this promise.

"What's more important than anything from the latest inter-Korean summit was that the leaders easily got in contact, easily made an appointment and easily met to discuss urgent matters, without complicated procedures and formalities, just like a casual meeting", Moon told a meeting with senior secretaries. If he does visit the United States, he would be the most senior North Korean official to do so since 2000.

Due to sanctions against him, Kim Yong Chol is banned from visiting the United States normally. He's on a USA sanctions list, so Kim Yong Chol needed a special waiver to go to NY, where the North Koreans have a diplomatic mission to the U.N. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

Trump cited hostile comments from North Korea as the reason he withdrew from the potentially historic summit.

The Washington Post said the meetings would continue on Monday and Tuesday at Tongilgak, the North's building in Panmunjom, where the truce suspending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed.

General Kim's re-emergence was initially met with hostility in South Korea, where he's accused of being a key figure in the 2010 sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan. Any visit to the United States would indicate a waiver was granted.

"They want American investment coming to North Korea", he said. Moon has insisted Kim can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way in exchange for credible security and economic guarantees.

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