North Korea’s Kim Yong-chol at the White House for Trump meeting

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A senior North Korean official has arrived at the White House to hold talks with US President Donald Trump and deliver a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The visit on Friday comes as top diplomats from the two countries try to revive a cancelled summit between Trump and Kim, which was due to be held in Singapore on June 12.

Kim Yong-chol was greeted by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly before heading, along with several other officials, towards the Oval Office entrace. 

Kim’s right-hand man set to meet Trump at White House

He arrived in the US capital from New York, where he held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday.

Considered the North Korean leader’s right-hand man, Kim Yong-chol is the most senior official from Pyongyang to visit the US in 18 years.

He is the vice chairman of the central committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. 

The last time a North Korean official visited the White House was in 2000, when then-Vice Marshal Jo Yong-rok met President Bill Clinton and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Following his meeting with Kim Yong-chol on Thursday, Pompeo said that talks on the summit “are moving in the right direction”, but added that a Trump-Kim Jong-un summit will only take place if there’s substantial agreement on de-nuclearisation.

Both the US and North Korea have committed themselves to the “de-nuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, but it is far from clear how that can be achieved.

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from the White House, said that the two sides are still “very far apart” when it comes to the pace of the de-nuclearisation.

But Halkett also quoted White House officials as saying that Trump is “personally invested” in the talks scheduled on June 12.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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