Steak diplomacy: Pompeo plans summit over dinner with top North Korean official
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official met in New York on Wednesday over a steak dinner to try to salvage next month’s summit between the North Korean and US leaders.
Kim Yong Chol, considered the right-hand man of leader Kim Jong Un, was the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years.
Pyongyang’s envoy joined Pompeo at the apartment of a US diplomat on Manhattan’s East side for the evening meal that lasted about an hour and a half. Two more meetings are scheduled for Thursday.
Asked about the working dinner, Pompeo told reporters afterwards: “It was great”. “Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight,” he later tweeted. “Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu.”
It was the third meeting between the two officials who are working to finalize planning for a June 12 summit designed to end a nuclear standoff that once threatened to plunge Korea back into war.
“They are meeting to see what needs to be done in the two weeks that remain,” a senior US official said.
The United States wants North Korea to agree to “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.
US and North Korean envoys have also been meeting in Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and an American team is in Singapore to make logistical arrangements for the rapidly planned meeting.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump suddenly announced a cancellation of the summit after North Korea issued a sharp rebuke of what it saw as threatening language from the US side, and Washington has warned talks could be postponed if Kim is not serious about disarmament.
“Between now and if we’re going to have a summit, they’re going to have to make clear what they’re willing to do,” said the official.
The decision to hold the summit “is 100 percent in the hands of the president,” he added.
The State Department released photos of a smiling Pompeo shaking hands with Kim Yong Chol, pointing out New York landmarks to him by a window and toasting his guests.
The menu featured burrata salad, filet mignon with corn puree, blanched celeriac and pan-wilted spinach. There was homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Pompeo has scheduled a news conference on Thursday, at the end of his meetings with Kim.
Also on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to travel to North Korea to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Pompeo and Lavrov spoke by telephone for the first time Wednesday.
Pompeo called his South Korean and Singaporean counterparts over the weekend and Japan is also keenly watching summit preparations. Trump will meet its Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington on June 7.
On Sunday, US negotiators, headed by Washington’s ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, began meeting North Korean counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom that divides the two Koreas.