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Tipsheet

North Korea Reportedly Executes Nuclear Envoy to US

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

North Korea has reportedly executed five officials over the failed nuclear summit in Hanoi with the United States, a South Korean newspaper reports.

Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea's special envoy to the U.S., and four other foreign ministry executives were reportedly killed by a firing squad in March at the airport in Pyongyang after being charged with spying for the U.S., the Chosun Ilbo paper reported, according to Reuters. 

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“He was accused of spying for the United States for poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping U.S. intentions,” the paper’s source was quoted as saying. 

No deal was reached at the second summit between Washington and Pyongyang in February due to the United States’ call for complete denuclearization and North Korea’s desire for sanctions relief. 

Reuters was not able to confirm The Chosun Ilbo report, and U.S. State Department officials had no information either. 

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 U.S. 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. […]

Among the penalized officials were Kim Song Hye, who led preparations as part of Kim Yong Chol’s team, and Sin Hye Yong, a newly elevated interpreter for the Hanoi summit. They were said to have been detained in a camp for political prisoners, the newspaper said.

The diplomatic source said Kim Song Hye’s punishment seemed inevitable because she was a “prime author” of the North’s plan to secure sanctions relief in return for dismantling the Yongbyon main nuclear complex. (Reuters)

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Hong Min, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, told Reuters verification would be needed to confirm what type of penalty Kim Hyok Chol and others faced. 

“Executing or completely removing people like him would send a very bad signal to the United States because he was the public face of the talks and it could indicate they are negating all they have discussed,” Hong said.

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