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Mike Pompeo, N Korea official set for talks in New York ahead of Singapore summit

Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol will discuss preparations for summit expected between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

world Updated: May 30, 2018 23:32 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US,North Korea,US North Korea summit
US and North Korean officials are also meeting in Singapore to discuss logistics of the Trump-Kim meet, as well as at the Demilitarised Zone on the Korean peninsula to work on a joint communiqué to be issued at the summit.(AFP)

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo was set to hold talks with visiting North Korean official Kim Yong Chol on Wednesday to prepare for the upcoming Singapore summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The US state department said Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol were to meet in New York on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing forward their Friday meeting. Trump is “expected” to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 as had been decided earlier, reversing the US president’s sudden cancellation of talks last week due to “anger” and “hostility” from Pyongyang.

Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol “will discuss preparations for (the) expected summit”, the state department said.

Kim Yong Chol is vice chairman of North Korea’s central committee and is considered the right-hand man of Kim Jong Un. He is also a former spy chief who has been accused by Seoul of masterminding the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010. The US has linked him to the 2014 cyber-hacking of Sony Pictures.

He has met Pompeo twice, during the latter’s visits to Pyongyang.

US and North Korean officials are also meeting in Singapore to discuss logistics of the Trump-Kim meet, as well as at the Demilitarised Zone on the Korean peninsula to work on a joint communiqué to be issued at the summit.

These meetings takes place amidst intense discussions about possible outcomes of the summit, including denuclearisation — a key US demand pushed aggressively by Trump. However, he has indicated willingness to consider a phased dismantling in recent days.

On Tuesday, NBC News, quoting a CIA assessment, reported that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons stockpile any time soon but could offer to allow the launch of a western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a goodwill gesture.

The report did not name the brand likely to get Kim Jong Un’s nod. His other options could include American investments, especially in infrastructure.

A hamburger franchise will be an easy give. And, as NBC reminded its viewers, US President Donald Trump had expressed his desire in 2016 to talk peace with the North Korean leader while “eating a hamburger on a conference table”.

And the world is aware of Trump’s love of burgers – two at a time, pushed down by a chocolate shake for dinner, while campaigning.

According to the report, the CIA further says Kim might have wanted to have an establishment up and running by the time of the talks to ensure a steady supply of burgers to the delegations involved. But there would be no shortage of the delicacy in Singapore if the city-state does get to host the summit.

The intelligence assessment that Kim may not end the country’s nuclear programme is largely in accord with the assessment of North Korean watchers, who have cautioned against having high expectations.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearise,” an official who had read the analysis told NBC News. The report was circulated earlier this month, said an intelligence official.

A Stanford University study has said it could take 15 years to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. “We’re talking about dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings and thousands of people,” lead author Siegfried S Hecker told The New York Times. He said the key to dismantling the sprawling atomic complex, begun six decades ago, “is to establish a different relationship with North Korea where its security rests on something other than nuclear weapons”.

First Published: May 30, 2018 23:32 IST