Seoul, May 31 (IANS) North Korea executed its special envoy to the US and four others following the breakdown of a second summit between regime leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, a key South Korean daily reported on Friday.
Citing the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the New York Times reported that envoy Kim Hyok-chol was executed by a firing squad in March at the Mirim airfield in a suburb of Pyongyang.
He had laid the groundwork for the Vietnam meeting between Trump and Kim in February and even accompanied the regime leader on his private train for the summit.
Kim Hyok-chol faced the charge that he was “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader”, the newspaper said.
Four officials of the North Korean Foreign Ministry were also executed, the South Korean daily reported, without providing any hint of who its source might be or how it obtained the information. These officials were not named.
South Korean officials could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report.
North Korea has not reported any execution or purge of top officials in recent months. The country remains the world’s most isolated, and outside intelligence agencies failed to figure out or misinterpreted what was going on in the closely guarded inner circles of Kim Jong-un.
The New York Times, citing the South Korean daily reported that Kim Yong-chol, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman who visited the White House as the main point man for diplomacy with the US, had been “purged, sentenced to forced labour” in a remote northern province.
Also sent to a prison camp was Kim Song-hye, a senior female nuclear negotiator who teamed up with Kim Hyok-chol in working-level negotiations ahead of the Kim-Trump summit, the South Korean newspaper said.
North Korea even sent a summit translator to a prison camp for committing a translation mistake, it said.
On Thursday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, carried a commentary warning against “anti-party, anti-revolutionary acts” of officials who “pretend to work for the supreme leader in his presence but secretly harbour other dreams behind his back”.
“Such characters won’t escape the stern judgment from the revolution,” the North Korean newspaper said.
During the Hanoi summit, Kim had asked Trump to lift the “most painful” international sanctions against his country in return for partially dismantling his country’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The meeting collapsed when Trump rejected the proposal, insisting on a rollback of Pyongyang’s entire weapons of mass destruction programme before lifting sanctions.