Washington - A top North Korean official arrived at the White House on Friday and planned to deliver President Donald Trump a letter from dictator Kim Jong Un, as the two sides scrambled to reinstate a nuclear summit between the leaders this month.
Kim's letter, presented by Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol, was viewed as an effort to bolster ongoing negotiations and ease tensions after Trump abruptly canceled the summit last week amid escalating threats from Pyongyang. But talks have continued and Trump has suggested the meeting could still go forward as planned on June 12 in Singapore.
Shortly after 1 p.m., a black sport utility vehicle entered the White House grounds and pulled up to the South Portico, where Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief who is leading the North Korea side in pre-summit talks, stepped out. He was greeted by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Andrew Kim, a CIA official in charge of the agency's Korea Mission Center. They were spotted by reporters walking along the Colonnade toward the West Wing and briskly entered the White House.
Kim Yong Chol became the first North Korea official in 18 years to visit the White House since President Bill Clinton met in the Oval Office with Jo Myong Rok, a top military official and attache to Kim Jong Il, the current leader's father. Jo presented Clinton with a letter inviting him to meet the North Korean leader in Pyongyang, an invitation Clinton ultimately turned down.
The visit on Friday represented an extraordinary turn of events. Kim Yong Chol had been personally sanctioned by the United States over his role in the North's nuclear weapons program and is thought to have masterminded an attack that sank a South Korean naval vessel in 2010, killing 46 sailors. Kim needed a special waiver from the State Department to travel to New York, where he met Thursday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and to Washington.
Pompeo also was scheduled to meet with Trump to brief him on the state of the talks. A pair of U.S. delegations have held talks this week with their North Korean counterparts at the Korean demilitarized zone and in Singapore.
U.S. officials have expressed optimism that the two sides are making progress toward resolving differences over the summit's agenda and logistical planning. But key gaps remain.
The Trump administration has pressed for the North to rapidly takes steps to turn over its nuclear program, while Pyongyang has said it expects a slower, step-by-step process in which the North receives reciprocal benefits, including economic incentives.
The Washington Post