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(LEAD) Top N. Korean official en route to Washington

All Headlines 13:56 January 17, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details)

BEIJING, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean official arrived in Beijing on Thursday apparently on his way to Washington, D.C. for talks with the top U.S. diplomat.

Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, is expected to leave for the U.S. capital on United Airlines flight UA808.

He got his airline ticket issued for departure scheduled at 6:25 p.m. Thursday, according to an airport official here. He will be accompanied by two other North Korean officials: Kim Song-hye, director of the United Front Department's tactical office, and Choe Kang-il, deputy director-general for the foreign ministry's North American affairs.

The plane is slated to land at Dulles Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Thursday (local time).

The envoy reportedly plans to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday morning, followed by a courtesy call on President Donald Trump.

He seems to be carrying leader Kim Jong-un's new letter to Trump.

The focus of his first Washington visit in eight months is apparently to discuss issues related to a second summit between the leaders.

The Washington Post reported that the summit will likely be held in March or April, with the Vietnamese resort town of Danang having emerged as a top candidate venue.

Both Pyongyang and Washington have yet to announce the North Koreans' schedule.

They may stay in the capital for three days, as they have booked an Air China flight to depart at 3:35 p.m. Saturday, a source said.

It will be the first time for a North Korean government official to arrive in Washington without a stopover in another U.S. city.

Last May, Kim Yong-chol traveled there via New York. In 2000, then Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok visited there through San Francisco.

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