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Pompeo to meet with senior N. Korean party official in NY

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this image made from video, Kim Yong Chol, center, a former military intelligence chief who is now Kim Jong Un's top official on inter-Korean relations, arrives at Beijing airport on May 29, 2018. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with a senior North Korean ruling party official and a close aide to leader Kim Jong Un in the United States this week, the White House said Tuesday, as the two countries prepare for a bilateral summit.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said later the top U.S. diplomat plans to make a two-day trip to New York from Wednesday for talks with the official, Kim Yong Chol, who is vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and head of its department in charge of relations with South Korea.

"Since the president's May 24th letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans have been engaging with the United States," she said in a news briefing. "The United States continues to actively prepare for President (Donald) Trump's expected summit with leader Kim in Singapore."

The move came after the U.S. leader confirmed that Kim Yong Chol is heading to the United States to take part in summit-related meetings.

"We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young (sic) Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York," Trump wrote in a Twitter post.

Trump also hailed the "solid response" to his letter, without elaborating.

Earlier Tuesday, Kim arrived in Beijing on a flight from Pyongyang, an informed source in the Chinese capital said.

Kim was accompanied by other North Korean officials including Choe Kang Il, deputy director general for North American affairs at the country's Foreign Ministry, the source said.

He is expected to leave for New York as early as Wednesday, according to a diplomatic source.

Kim, who held talks with Pompeo in Pyongyang earlier this month, is believed to be leading arrangements for the planned summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, which Trump canceled last Thursday before quickly reviving hopes of holding it as originally scheduled in Singapore on June 12.

The Dong-A Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, reported Tuesday that Pompeo may visit Pyongyang by the end of this week.

U.S. and North Korean officials have held working-level talks since Sunday, at the border village of Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, to prepare for the summit.

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