North Korea executed its special nuclear envoy to the United States as part of a purge of senior officials over the failed summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper claimed Friday.
Kim Hyok Chol was executed by firing squad in March along with four other foreign ministry officials, the paper reported, citing an unidentified North Korean source.
North Korea neither confirmed nor denied the report. South Korea’s government was not able to confirm the claim. Previous media reports about the fate of North Korean officials who have fallen afoul of Pyongyang’s leader have proven to be false.
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Chosun Ilbo reported Kim Hyok Chol and the other senior officials were shot after being accused of spying for the United States. The paper reported Kim Jong Un ordered the purge amid mounting dissatisfaction with the summit in Hanoi – the second time Kim and Trump met for face-to-face talks. In Vietnam, they failed to reach a deal because of conflicts over the White House’s call for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
Since then, amid a diplomatic standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, North Korea has resumed testing short-range ballistic missiles, ending a pause in launches that began in late 2017. The tests are viewed as a way for Kim to pressure Trump to ease sanctions without actually causing negotiations to collapse.
There was no immediate reaction to Chosun Ilbo’s report from the White House.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump tweeted during a recent trip to Japan.
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