- The White House via Getty Images
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is investigating a report that North Korea executed the official that served as the special envoy to the US during the summit between the US and North Korea.
- South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that Kim Hyok Chol was executed after the summit’s collapse for “betraying the supreme leader” as part of a purge.
- The report has not been confirmed, and some previous reports by South Korean media turned out to have been incorrect.
- Chosun Ilbo reported that other officials were also executed and others were sentenced to hard labor.
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is looking into a report that North Korea executed a top envoy after the summit between North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump collapsed.
Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the US, was executed after the summit ended early, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Friday. The summit collapsed after the two leaders had failed to reach agreements over nuclear disarming and sanctions, according to Trump.
- Kyodo News via Getty Images
The report cited an unnamed North Korean source, and has not been confirmed by other news outlets, or the North Korean or South Korean governments.
The report said he was executed in March for “being recruited by US imperialists and betraying the supreme leader.”
Pompeo responded to a journalist’s question about the reported execution in Berlin on Friday: “We’ve seen the reporting to which you are referring.”
“We’re doing our best to check it out. I don’t have anything else to add to that today,” he said, according to Reuters.
Chosun Ilbo reported that the execution was part of a purge of top officials that saw four other officials executed.
It reported that a senior official was part of Kim’s team for both of his summits with Trump was sentenced to hard labor and ideological “re-education.” The official, Kim Yong Chol, met Trump at the White House in 2018 and was photographed with him.
- Shealah Craighead/White House
It also reported that an interpreter from the summit was imprisoned for what the newspaper said was an interpretation error at the February summit. It said that North Korea felt the error “damaged the authority” of Kim.
North Korea has previously executed officials without announcing it, but previous reports in South Korean media about such executions have also been incorrect, The Associated Press noted.
- REUTERS/Leah Millis
There have been cases where South Korean media or intelligence officials said that an individual was executed, only for them to re-emerge months later. But some reports have also been accurate.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Friday that the US is “monitoring the situation” but declined to comment further.
“I am not going to comment on intelligence one way or another. I can tell you we are monitoring the situation and continuing to stay focused on our ultimate goal, which is denuclearization.”
South Korea said that “it’s inappropriate to make hasty judgments or comments” about the report, The Associated Press reported.
Trump said that the February summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, collapsed because Kim was demanding that all sanctions on North Korea were lifted but did not agree to closing enough nuclear sites.
“Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times,” he said just after the summit collapsed. North Korean media called it “extraordinary” and “successful,” making no mention of the collapse.