North Korea executed its nuclear envoy to the United States as part of a purge of officials who steered negotiations for a failed summit between leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, a South Korean newspaper said on Friday.
Kim Hyok Chol was executed at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang, along with four foreign ministry executives, in March after they were all charged with spying for the United States, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified North Korean source.
“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 summit in Hanoi, the second between Kim Jong Un and Trump, failed to reach a deal because of conflicts over U.S. calls for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
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 labour and reeducation camp near the Chinese border, the Chosun Ilbo reported.
Key officials who worked with Kim Yong Chol have also been out of the public eye since the summit, while seasoned diplomats who had been sidelined 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.
A spokeswoman at Seoul’s Unification Ministry declined to comment on the Chosun report. An official at the presidential Blue House in Seoul said it was inappropriate to comment on an issue that should first be verified.