North Korea 'executes' nuclear envoy in purge after failed US summit
Kim Hyok Chol was executed in March at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang, along with four foreign ministry executives after they were all charged with spying for the United States, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the situation.
“He was accused of spying for the United States for poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping U.S. intentions,” the source was quoted as saying.
The February summit in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, the second between Kim and Trump, failed to reach a deal because of conflicts over US calls for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the report. Previously, some North Korean officials have reportedly been executed or purged only to reappear with a new title.
A spokeswoman at South Korea’s Unification Ministry declined to comment. An official at the presidential Blue House in Seoul said it was inappropriate to comment on an issue that should first be verified.
A diplomatic source told Reuters there were signs Kim Hyok Chol and other officials were punished for the breakdown of the summit, such as by being sent to a labor camp for reeducation, but there was no evidence they were executed.
Kim Yong Chol, Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man and the counterpart of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the Hanoi summit, had also been sent to a labor and reeducation camp in Jagang Province near the Chinese border, the Chosun Ilbo reported.
Key officials who worked with Kim Yong Chol have been out of the public eye since the summit, while seasoned diplomats who previously appeared to have been sidelined, including vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui, were seen returning to the spotlight.
A South Korean lawmaker told Reuters in April that Kim Yong Chol, a hawkish former spymaster, had been removed from a key party post.
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