Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean general and high-ranking official in the regime, is headed to the United States to continue negotiations with the Trump administration, President Trump confirmed Tuesday.
President Trump made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday morning that Kim is headed to New York. North Korea has only one diplomatic outpost in the United States — its Permanent Mission to the United Nations on the east side of Manhattan.
We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
General Kim’s trip is an ultra-rare occurrence. He is the most senior North Korean official to visit the U.S. since 2000, according to the BBC.
Kim, 72, is an extremely controversial figure. Widely considered Kim Jong Un’s closest ally, he is often photographed sitting next to the “Supreme Leader.” North Korea Leadership Watch describes him as “one of the most powerful figures in North Korea.” He met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his secret April trip to North Korea.
Top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol is in Beijing, is reported to be on his way to the U.S. for meetings about that off-again-on-again Kim/Trump summit https://t.co/SYxCft8vsO pic.twitter.com/GRz2Og1U2Y
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) May 29, 2018
Kim currently serves the North Korean dictatorship under the official title of vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Worker’s Party of Korea. From 2009 to 2016, he was the director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is North Korea’s premier intelligence agency and rather like a hybrid between the American CIA and NSA.
The general was allegedly behind the 2010 North Korean torpedo attacks on a South Korean naval vessel, the ROKS Cheonan, which killed 46 South Koreans on board and wounded 56 more.
The North Korean general is also suspected of being behind the 2014 cyber attacks against Sony Pictures.
Kim is sanctioned by the United States for his activities supporting the Pyongyang dictatorship. This should technically render him ineligible to enter the United States. However, it is likely that a waiver has been granted to allow him into the country. North Korean officials are strictly prohibited from leaving the New York City area, due to concerns over potential espionage activities, so it is expected that American officials will travel to New York to meet with the North Korean general.
It remains unclear whether President Trump and Kim Jong Un will still hold their once-scheduled June 12 summit in Singapore. Last week, President Trump walked away from his commitment to the summit, but then later said he was still open to holding the highly touted meeting on schedule.