North Korean official arrives in New York for talks with Pompeo

North Korean official arrives in New York for talks with Pompeo
© Greg Nash

A top North Korean official arrived in New York on Wednesday ahead of a planned meeting with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' Ex-Watergate prosecutor says evidence in impeachment inquiry 'clearly' points to Trump MORE

The visit by Kim Yong Chol, a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the former head of the country's military intelligence agency, is the first time such a senior-level North Korean official visited the U.S. in 18 years. 

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The White House said that Kim and Pompeo were expected to have dinner together on Wednesday night, and had a "day full of meetings" planned for Thursday.

Because he is under U.S. sanctions, Kim was granted a waiver to travel to New York, the State Department said on Tuesday. The North's only diplomatic outpost in the U.S. is its United Nations mission in New York.

The visit comes as North Korean and U.S. officials seek to hold together prospects for a summit between President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE and his North Korean counterpart. Trump abruptly scrapped a planned June 12 meeting with Kim last week, citing Pyongyang's "hostilities" towards the U.S.

But despite the cancellation, the two countries appear to be moving towards another summit. As Kim Yong Chol arrived in New York, U.S. officials were in Singapore and the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, meeting with officials from the North.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday that the U.S. would "continue to shoot for June 12" as a meeting date. 

The diplomatic activity between the U.S. and North Korea in recent days is a stark turnaround from 2017, when tensions between the two countries skyrocketed amid the North's increased nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Trump has vowed to use any talks with Kim to push the North to rapidly denuclearize. It's unclear, however, if Kim is willing to do that, at least at the pace for which the Trump administration is hoping. In a statement earlier this month, a North Korean official said the country had no interest in meeting with Trump if he insisted on "unilateral nuclear abandonment."