Top North Korean official meets Trump at White House

Kim Yong-chol, vice-chairman of North Korea's ruling party executive and a veteran regime insider met with the U.S. President at the White House on Friday to deliver the letter.

After the meeting, Trump posed for photos with Kim Yong Chol outside the Oval Office, and they talked amiably at Kim's black SUV before he was driven away.

"We're going to deal", Trump told reporters after Kim left. "We will see what we will see".

The peace talks are set for The Fullerton Hotel Singapore on June 12.

"I don't even want to use the term "maximum pressure" anymore", Trump added, referencing his preferred term for the punishing USA economic sanctions imposed on North Korea in response to its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

He said it "went very well".

When asked if he could offer a "flavor of what the letter said", Trump said: "It was a very interesting letter". But a flurry of diplomacy across two continents got the meeting back on track, and Trump announced Friday that he would attend as initially planned.

White House and State Department officials repeatedly declined to comment on the advance team planning, keeping those discussions more opaque than the substance of the negotiations. However, his comments were the most positive from any USA official since Trump abruptly canceled the meeting last week after belligerent statements from the North.

Trump cited increasingly bellicose statements from the North - and ignored messages about summit logistics - when he announced he was backing out of the summit in a strongly worded letter.

After weeks of uncertainty, President Donald Trump called off the summit last week, blaming "open hostility" from North Korea.

"Chairman Kim Jong Un is looking to make decisive actions", Song said, according to a translation provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which hosts the event.

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Kim was welcomed to the White House earlier by Chief of Staff John Kelly, who together with CIA Korea chief Andy Kim led the official into the Diplomatic Reception Room, then along the Colonnade and past the Rose Garden to the Oval Office. Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in 18 years, spent nearly 90 minutes in the Oval Office. He said of the North Koreans, "I believe they will be coming down to Washington on Friday". But there are lingering doubts on whether he will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

USA defense and intelligence officials have repeatedly assessed the North to be on the threshold the capability to strike anywhere in the continental US with a nuclear-tipped missile - a capacity that Trump and other USA officials have said they would not tolerate.

Kim Yong Chol left his hotel in New York City early Friday for the trip to Washington in a convoy of SUVs.

"I look forward to the day I can take the sanctions off North Korea", Trump said.

He also said "we talked about ending the war", suggesting a formal conclusion of hostilities stemming from the Korean War in the 1950s could be a result of the Singapore summit.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in (not pictured) during their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, North Korea, in this handout picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), on May 27. "As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of USA hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward", Kim told Sergey Lavrov.

North Korea's flurry of diplomatic activity following an increase in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and for the global legitimacy a summit with Mr. Trump would provide.

Trump views a summit as a legacy-defining opportunity to make a nuclear deal. The president said his June 12 meeting will be "a beginning".

Trump appeared to significantly lower expectations for the outcome of the historic summit, frequently describing it as the start of a process and not the place where the two leaders were likely to sign any agreement.

Kim Yong Chul, who till now was under United States sanctions, is likely to stay in the country till tomorrow.

  • Sonia Alvarado