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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
UPDATE AT 1710 KST: This article has been amended to include comments from a senior State Department official.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a preliminary meeting over dinner with high-ranking North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in New York on Wednesday evening local time.
In a Twitter post following the meeting, Pompeo described it as a “good working dinner.”
The two are set to hold a full day of meetings on Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
The late Wednesday dinner took place near the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan at the currently-vacant residence of the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN.
Accompanying the Secretary of State was Andrew Kim, Director of the Korean mission at the CIA, who also joined Pompeo during a visit earlier in the month to Pyongyang.
Kim Yong Chol, who serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and director of the United Front Department of the WPK Central Committee, arrived in the U.S. earlier in the day.
Pompeo, in turn, arrived in New York late in the day following an afternoon meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 30, 2018
Kim is the highest-ranking DPRK official to visit the U.S. for talks with government officials since the late Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok’s meeting with then-President Bill Clinton in 2000.
A U.S. senior State Department official said in a press briefing following the dinner that it was the third time the two men had met.
Pompeo was reported to have held talks with Kim Yong Chol in Pyongyang on May 9, after which North Korea released three American prisoners to travel back to the U.S. with him.
But the official’s comments appear to confirm the two met for the first time during Pompeo’s secretive first DPRK visit in early April– a meeting only disclosed by the White House weeks later.
Kim Yong Chol was cited at the time as a key figure on the North Korean side responsible for working with South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon to orchestrate the meeting.
When asked on Wednesday if the U.S. plans to again offer economic incentives to the North alongside its demands of denuclearization, the official said, “We are talking about a brighter future for North Korea if it makes a smart choice.”
North Korea through senior officials and state media have in recent weeks consistently rejected the suggestion that it could accept money from the U.S., with an article in ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun over the weekend insisting that “as far as the ‘economic aid’ advertised by the U.S. is concerned, the DPRK has never expected it.”
Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats are also holding talks with DPRK officials at both the Panmunjom Peace Village and in Singapore.
Press Secretary Sanders earlier in the day said the meetings would focus on the issue of denuclearization.
“The priority focus that we have discussed and that are in the ongoing conversations with the Secretary Pompeo, as well as at the DMZ, are focused on the denuclearization of the Peninsula,” Sanders said, adding that “a number of topics are likely to be discussed.”
“The conversation is going to be focused on denuclearization of the Peninsula,” Sander continued “That’s what these ongoing conversations taking place now will be centered on, as well as the summit that would take place in Singapore.”
Sanders also said they would “continue to shoot for the June 12th” summit to take place.
Ahead of his meeting with Kim, Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. was “committed to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and said that summit preparations would also be on the agenda.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Twitter