The North Korean envoy landed at Beijing airport on Tuesday and was to meet with Chinese officials before traveling on to the United States on Wednesday, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. He's set to land in NY on Wednesday on a flight from Beijing, Yonhap said.
His journey to the U.S. caps a frenetic few days of meetings between North Korean and American officials.
A top North Korean official widely known as leader Kim Jong Un's right-hand man has arrived in Beijing, en route to the United States for a meeting with top USA officials, a report said Tuesday, as Washington and Pyongyang continue to lay the groundwork for a historic leaders' summit. It remains unclear whom Kim Yong Chol will meet in the United States. Sung Kim, a former American negotiator and the current Philippines ambassador, is also holding talks Tuesday on the northern side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui.
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Much of the communication between the United States and North Korea has happened via their intelligence network, especially as Mike Pompeo's first visit to Pyongyang at the beginning of April was while he was still director of the Central Intelligence Agency and secretary of state nominee. North Korea has denied any involvement in the incident, according to Time magazine.
Kim Jong Un has sent favorable signals in recent days and Trump's aides will soon assess whether he is willing to take serious steps before making a final decision on whether to go ahead with the summit, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He visited South Korea as part of the North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics, which drew global attention after the dramatic shift from tension to rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula earlier this year.
He was at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's side at the table in last weekend's North-South summit, and had been a prominent senior official in other important talks.
"A U.S. delegation is in ongoing talks with North Korean officials at Panmunjom", said Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, in a statement.
They later reported that Kim changed his flight to go to NY on Wednesday, but it wasn't clear why.
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Kim is also widely believed to be behind the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean Naval vessel, in which 46 seamen died. Kim was seen in the Beijing airport Tuesday by Associated Press Television.
Subsequently, U.S. and North Korean officials on Sunday began preliminary talks at the Korean border to set the agenda for the summit.
On Monday, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed while talking on the phone that they would meet before the "expected" summit.
A day later, Mr Trump said he had reconsidered, and officials from both countries were meeting to work out details.
Moon said on Monday there could be more impromptu talks between the two Koreas in the lead-up to the summit.
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"It looked like the real Kim Jong Un, but later I realised it's not the real one", said Sagar Admuthe who was visiting from Mumbai, India, after several selfies with the doppleganger against a backdrop of the city's bay. "[Moon] could join President Trump and Kim in Singapore", a senior official told Yonhap.