NEWS
01/06/2018 20:02 BST | Updated 01/06/2018 22:57 BST

North Korea Summit Back On, Announces Donald Trump

The announcement came after hosting a senior NK official at the White House.

Donald Trump has announced the historic summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is back on for June 12 in Singapore.

“We’re going to deal,” the President told reporters moments after the meeting ended.

He also said it was likely that more than one meeting would be necessary.

Trump concluded: “I think you’re going to have a very positive result in the end. We will see what we will see.”

He also told reporters he had not read the letter yet, and added with a smile: “I may be in for a big surprise, folks.”

The announcement came shortly after the President received a letter from Kim Jong-un delivered to the White House by a senior North Korean official.

Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to the North Korean leader, is the highest level figure from the secretive state to hold talks at the White House since a senior envoy visited former President Bill Clinton in 2000.

The envoy walked into the Oval Office to meet Trump, reports Reuters.

The United States previously blacklisted Kim Yong Chol, who once served as a bodyguard to the current leader’s father Kim Jong Il, from coming to the United States because of his role in North Korea’s military establishment.

After exchanging threats and insults since Trump became president last year, the United States and North Korea have been trying to set up a summit, originally planned for Singapore on June 12, between their leaders at which Trump wants to pressure Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear weapons.

In comments to Reuters on Thursday, Trump played down the chances of a quick breakthrough in the nuclear diplomacy. He said he was hopeful an unprecedented meeting with leader Kim would take place as scheduled but left open the possibility talks would fall through.

Kim’s letter is seen as a sign that the summit might be back on after Trump canceled it late last month because of North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility.”

SAUL LOEB via Getty Images
Trump flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), walks with North Korean Kim Yong Chol (L) at the White House earlier today.

The Wall Street Journal said Kim’s letter was seen as fairly basic, according to one foreign government official who was briefed on the contents. It expresses the North Korean leader’s interest in meeting without making any significant concessions or threats, the Journal said, citing a foreign government official who had been briefed on the letter.

The envoy, Kim Yong Chol was previously chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a top North Korean military intelligence agency, and has spent nearly 30 years as a senior member of the country’s intelligence community.

The United States and South Korea blacklisted him for supporting the North’s nuclear and missile programs in 2010 and 2016. He was granted special permission to travel to the United States for meetings this week with top U.S. officials, the State Department said.

Kim Yong Chol was accused by South Korea of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean navy ship and an island in 2010. He also was linked by U.S. intelligence to a devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.

North Korea denied any involvement in either incident.

South Korean officials say Kim Yong Chol stormed out of the room during military talks in 2014 when the South demanded an apology for the 2010 attacks.

He served in the military police in the demilitarized zone on the border of the two Koreas. He was also a bodyguard to Kim Jong Il, the former leader and late father of Kim Jong Un, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, an affiliate of the 38 North think tank.

Kim Yong Chol is known to be difficult to work with, sarcastic and not sufficiently deferential to his superiors, Leadership Watch said.

He also has suffered career setbacks. South Korea’s intelligence agency said in 2015 Kim Yong Chol was demoted to a three-star general after dozing off during a meeting.

In 2016, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said he was briefly sent to a re-education camp for his “overbearing” manner and abuse of power.

In Seoul, US negotiators on Friday expressed optimism after meeting their North Korean counterparts for preparatory talks at Panmunjom, on the fortified border between the two Koreas.