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N Korea’s top negotiator reaches US ahead of possible 2nd Trump-Kim summit

WASHINGTON: One of North Korea’s top negotiators has arrived in Washington to meet US officials ahead of a possible second summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

South Korean reports say Kim Yong-chol, travelling via Beijing, is carrying another letter from Kim to Trump.

He is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said. Speculation is mounting that the second summit could be held in Vietnam, the BBC reported.

The North Korean leader is scheduled to travel to the communist-run country for an “official state visit” sometime in February, a media outlet reported citing unnamed sources.

Little progress has been made on North Korean de-nuclearization since a historic meeting in Singapore last June between Kim and Trump. But there has recently been a flurry of diplomatic activity.

Kim visited China earlier this month for talks with President Xi Jinping, as he did before the Singapore summit.

Meanwhile another senior North Korean official, vice-foreign minister Choe Son-hui, is heading to Sweden, where she could meet Washington’s special representative for Pyongyang Stephen Biegun, reports say.

General Kim Yong-chol, a former spymaster often referred to as Kim Jong-un’s right hand man, has emerged as North Korea’s lead negotiator in recent talks with the US. He is a controversial figure, and has been accused of masterminding attacks on South Korean warships during his time as military intelligence chief in 2010.

He last visited Washington in June, when he delivered a letter to Trump ahead of historic talks between both countries.

In his annual new year’s speech a few weeks ago, Kim said he was committed to denuclearization, but warned that he would change course if US sanctions remained. Both parties signed a pledge in Singapore to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, though it was never clear what this would entail.