'Purged' aide to Kim Jong-un reappears alongside dictator

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with North Korean senior ruling party official Kim Yong Chol during the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with North Korean senior ruling party official Kim Yong Chol during the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi

KCNA named Kim Yong Chol as the 10th person among a group of 12 "leading officials" who accompanied Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, to an amateur art performance by wives of officers in the North Korean Army on Sunday.

Kim Yong-chol has been North Korea's top nuclear negotiator and the counterpart of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo since Kim Jong-un entered nuclear talks with the USA in 2018.

Kim Yong Chol, in particular, sat in the White House across from US President Donald Trump for talks little more than a year ago.

There had been speculation about the fate of Kim Yong-chol after a South Korean newspaper reported last week that he had been subjected to forced labour and "ideological education". But three days later, Mr Kim has turned up, attending a concert in Pyongyang, and sitting in a position of honour close to Kim Jong-un.

South Korean media and the government in Seoul have a long history of reporting seemingly outlandish stories that appear to throw back the veil of North Korea - home to one of the world's most opaque regimes - that turn out to be wrong.

Asked on Sunday about the last USA contact with Kim Yong-chol and North Korea in general, Pompeo declined to answer, saying, "We conduct our negotiations in private".

Reports of these deaths could not be confirmed by Seoul's spy service, according to the Associated Press.

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The reported executions and purge, which the newspaper claimed were in response to February's failed U.S.

But while it might have been shocking, it is not the first time there has been reported repercussions for North Korean politicians who have failed in the nuclear negotiations.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea's Sejong Institute, said Kim Yong Chol, who is also rumoured to have health problems, wouldn't have appeared in public this quickly if he was undergoing political re-education.

Kim Hyok-chol was Pyongyang's counterpart to U.S. special representative Stephen Biegun in the run-up to Hanoi, and the Choson Ilbo said he had been put to death for "betraying the Supreme Leader" after he was "won over to the US" during pre-summit negotiations.

Kim declared in April that the Trump administration has until the end of the year to come up with mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations. "It's unlikely that Kim would issue extreme punishment unless he's giving up on the talks with the United States".

Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers' Party Committee Kim Yong Chol, North Korea's lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the United States, waves as he meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (reflected in background 2ndL) for talks aimed at clearing the way for a second U.S.

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