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Senior North Korean official coming to New York for talks


Kim Yong Chol is expected to fly to New York on Wednesday before a U.S.-North Korea summit. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

The President Trump-Kim Jong Un summit is planned for Singapore, though the deal that saves it may be done in New York, with a senior North Korean official heading to town.

Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party, left Pyongyang for Beijing Tuesday morning, and had a flight booked to Gotham for Wednesday, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Kim, sometimes described as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's "right-hand man," will reportedly meet with Chinese officials before heading to the U.S. to discuss the summit planned for June 12.

Original reports had said that he was headed to Washington.

Trump called off the summit last week citing recent statements by North Korean officials, though the White House suggested on Monday that it could still happen as scheduled.

It was not clear whom the North Korean diplomat and former spy chief would meet when he arrives in the country that his regime has threatened to annihilate.

He is the highest ranking official from his country to visit since Jo Myong-rok met with Bill Clinton in 2000.

Despite a public cancellation from President Trump, a summit with Kim Jong Un still appears to be in the works.
Despite a public cancellation from President Trump, a summit with Kim Jong Un still appears to be in the works. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The departure of American diplomats from a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, was also interpreted Signs that talks about the summit were back on.

A meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had a historic first meeting last month, also rekindled hopes that the U.S.-North Korea talks would not come to nothing.

The stated goal of the potential Trump-Kim summit is "denuclearization" after North Korea became an international pariah by building a nuclear weapon and missile program capable of hitting much of the world, including the U.S.

Previous North Korean discussions about disarmament have suggested the U.S. abandon its military presence in its southern neighbor.

American officials are also expected to be part of discussions to formulate a peace treaty for the war between North and South Korea where fighting ended in the 1950s with an armistice.