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(LEAD) Senior N.K. official arrives in Beijing en route to U.S. for summit preparations

All Headlines 13:48 May 29, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS photo; UPDATES throughout)

BEIJING, May 29 (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean official arrived in Beijing on Tuesday apparently en route to the United States to hold preparatory talks over a possible summit between the leaders of the two countries.

The trip by Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party, came as Washington and Pyongyang are holding working-level talks on the summit agenda and issues related to security and protocol.

The North's Air Koryo plane carrying the official touched down in Beijing at 10 a.m. (local time), sources said. He has also been found to have booked a ticket on an Air China flight set to depart for New York at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Kim was said to have originally reserved a flight set to leave for Washington at 1:25 p.m. on Tuesday, the sources said.

"I understand that Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol has arrived in Beijing, will hold talks with Chinese officials at the airport and leave for the U.S. tomorrow," a source said, declining to be named.

Kim, a former military spy chief, is known to be conversant with denuclearization and security issues. He has been heavily criticized in the South for his alleged role in a series of North Korean provocations, including the 2010 torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

It was widely expected that Kim would travel to the U.S. to reciprocate recent visits by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The two may meet to put final touches on the preparations for the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, observers said.

The high-stakes summit is expected to take place in Singapore on June 12.

Trump called it off Thursday, citing "open hostility" from the North. But following Pyongyang's conciliatory gesture and Seoul's mediation, Trump suggested that the summit could go ahead as planned.

A major sticking point at the summit is expected to be how to denuclearize the North.

Washington has called for a swift, stringent denuclearization approach to prevent the communist regime from stringing out negotiations and wringing out undue benefits. Pyongyang favors a gradual drawdown of its nuclear program, with benefits flowing in along the way.

This combined file photo shows U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the central commmittee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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