NEW YORK – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and high-ranking North Korean official Kim Yong Chol enter a second day of meetings in New York on Thursday as they try to settle nuclear weapons disagreements and set the stage for an historic summit between their leaders.
The two men left a 90-minute private dinner at a New York apartment on Wednesday night without providing details about their conversation. Another round of talks is due on Thursday.
The United States has been demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program amid reports that it is close to being able to launch a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States.
Pyongyang has long argued that it needed nuclear weapons for its security.
There were reports earlier on Wednesday that South Korean officials were noting “quite significant” differences between the United States and North Korea over denuclearization.
The New York meetings follow high-level conversations Pompeo held in North Korea in April and earlier in May and are intended to get negotiations between the two long-time adversaries back on track.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un had been scheduled to hold an unprecedented summit in Singapore on June 12. Disputes between Washington and Pyongyang led Trump to cancel the meeting, only to see a renewal of diplomatic efforts in recent days.
“The potential summit …. presents DPRK with a great opportunity to achieve security and economic prosperity,” Pompeo said on Twitter on Thursday, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The people of North Korea can have a brighter future and the world can be more peaceful,” he said.
Kim Yong Chol, a close aide of Kim Jong Un and vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, is the most senior North Korean official to meet top U.S. officials for talks in the United States in nearly two decades.
In Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un welcomed visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the first meeting between a Russian official and Kim as head of state.
Lavrov invited Kim to Russia, and called for a phased approach to denuclearization, including easing of international sanctions on North Korea.