A top North Korean official arrived at Beijing’s airport on Wednesday on his way to a meeting in New York in hopes of trying to salvage a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
Kim Yong Chol was seen at Beijing’s airport just after noon as he was heading to his flight. He arrived in Beijing on Tuesday.
Trump and Kim Jong Un were set to meet June 12 in Singapore, but Trump announced last week that he was pulling out. Since then, Trump has suggested the meeting could be back on.
Kim Yong Chol is to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and would be the highest-level North Korean official to travel to the U.S. since 2000.
Kim is a top lieutenant to Kim Jong Un, and his trip to the U.S. suggests that preparations for a summit between the North’s leader and Trump are in the final stages.
He is one of a small group of North Korean officials who have accompanied Kim Jong Un to all four of his summits with foreign leaders in recent months — twice with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Kim Yong Chol, who is about 72, is a contentious figure outside North Korea.
Before taking responsibility for relations with South Korea in 2016, he was a four-star army general and a military intelligence chief who is thought to have been behind a slew of provocations against South Korea and the West.
Those include two deadly attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans and an alleged 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures. Both Seoul and Washington imposed sanctions on him in recent years.