- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean official with a bad reputation, on Wednesday.
- They had a lavish steak dinner served on State Department tableware in a Manhattan high-rise.
- The display of friendship is part of diplomatic efforts to save a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that had been scheduled for June 12.
- The two sides are trying to hash out sharply differing ideas of denuclearizing North Korea.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down for a steak dinner on Wednesday with an infamous North Korean official as part of a diplomatic frenzy dedicated to resurrecting a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Pompeo met Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling party’s Central Committee who was formerly an intelligence chief, for dinner in New York.
The men and two aides went to a high-rise building in east Manhattan to eat a high-class meal served on State Department tableware in a “working dinner” designed to help hash out the two countries’ dramatically different ideas of how North Korea should handle its nuclear weapons program.
Along with Pompeo and Kim were Andrew Kim, a senior CIA official who’s an expert on North Korea, and an unnamed North Korean aide.
Washington has demanded North Korea abandon all its nuclear weapons, while Pyongyang has insisted that it needs them for security.
Experts are sceptical about whether Pyongyang would comply with full denuclearization, no matter what concessions it receives in return.
Last week, Trump canceled a highly anticipated summit with Kim Jong Un set for June 12 in Singapore, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from North Korea.
However, officials on both sides have since said they are still working toward making the meeting happen.
US and North Korean officials have continued to meet for pre-summit negotiations in Singapore, while the US invited Kim Yong Chol to a meeting on American soil, a kind of meeting that has not taken place for decades.
Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol’s private dinner took place near the United Nations headquarters in east Midtown Manhattan, the BBC reported. It lasted about 90 minutes.
Here’s the menu:
Bibb lettuce and spring pea salad starter with burrata cheese, ramp pesto, and shaved crudité
Filet mignon with corn purée, blanched celeriac, and pan-wilted spinach
Viennese chocolate soufflé with homemade vanilla ice cream
Photos of the dinner showed Pompeo, Kim, and two aides smiling and toasting one another.
Pompeo tweeted after the dinner: “Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu.”
The pair also signed a menu after the meal.
Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s former intelligence chief, is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the US since 2000, when Kim Jong Il, the country’s leader at the time, sent Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok to Washington.
This is also Kim Yong Chol’s first visit to the US. Because he has twice been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, he was given a sanctions waiver to make this trip, The Guardian reported.
The 72-year-old is a controversial figure among South Koreans. The Guardian reported that he is believed to be behind the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that left 46 sailors dead; Pyongyang has denied involvement in the incident.
He is also thought to be behind the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures in response to the James Franco and Seth Rogen movie “The Interview,” which insulted Kim Jong Un.
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