(4th LD) Top N. Korean envoy due in Washington this week: CNN
(ATTN: UPDATES with Chinese foreign ministry official's comments in last 3 paras )
SEOUL/BEIJING/WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea will send a top government official to Washington, D.C. later this week, CNN reported Wednesday amid indications that the two sides are moving closer to a second summit.
Kim Yong-chol, North Korea's top negotiator and ex-spymaster, plans to arrive there Thursday (local time) for a two-day stay, according to the broadcaster.
It cited two U.S. sources familiar with ongoing negotiations.
Kim is expected to hold talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on details of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and the communist nation's leader Kim Jong-un.
The North Korean envoy visited the U.S. capital last year, less than two weeks ahead of the Kim-Trump summit in Singapore on June 12. He met with Trump at the White House.
Pompeo had planned to hold a meeting with Kim, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, in New York in November, but it was abruptly canceled.
The North's official reportedly hopes to sit down with Trump again.
A White House spokesperson did not confirm any meeting but reiterated Trump's optimism about the denuclearization talks.
"As the president has said, a lot of positive things are happening," the spokesperson told Yonhap. "He and Chairman Kim have established a good relationship, and conversations between the United States and North Korea continue.
"We are working to make progress on our goal of achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, and the president looks forward to meeting Chairman Kim again at their second summit at a place and time yet to be determined."
As usual, Kim Yong-chol is expected to head to Washington via Beijing.
He and two other North Korean officials booked tickets for a United Airlines flight, UA808, to depart for Washington at 6:25 p.m. on Thursday, according to a Beijing airport official.
It remains unclear whether the former spy agency chief will actually board the plane.
China's foreign ministry said Kim will make a stopover in Beijing.
"As far as I know, (he) will be stopping over in Beijing," its spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said at a press briefing without elaborating.
She said there's no information to share on a possible meeting between Kim and Chinese officials during the stopover.
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