North Korea reportedly executes officials for failed Trump-Kim summit

North Korea has executed the country’s special envoy to the United States over February’s failed summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Friday.

Kim Hyok Chol, the chief negotiator who led the working-level negotiations with the U.S., was executed in March alongside several other officials in punishment for the outcome of the event, the newspaper reported. Trump and Kim met in Hanoi, Vietnam, for their second official summit to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but the talks abruptly collapsed after the pair failed to come to a deal. Tensions with the North have only increased in recent months after a period of relative calm.

“Kim Hyok Chol was investigated and executed at Mirim Airport with four foreign ministry officials in March,” an unnamed North Korean officials told the Chosun Ilbo, according to a translation from Reuters.

Another official, Kim Yong Chol, who worked with Vice President Mike Pence in the lead-up to the Hanoi summit, has also been punished, reportedly with forced labor and “ideological education,” according to the South Korean paper.

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U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to board Air Force One after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts during a news conference after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves a news conference at the JW Marriott Hanoi in Hanoi, following talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. President Donald Trump accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the JW Marriott Hanoi, following talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
A view of the table in the room which was supposed to host a working lunch between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, that was cancelled, during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the extended bilateral meeting in the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
White House national security adviser John Bolton reacts beside U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the extended bilateral meeting in the Metropole hotel with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walk in the garden at the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A customer watches a set of TV's broadcasting a news report on a Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, in Seoul, South Korea, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands before their one-on-one chat during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
People read the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showing coverage of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visiting Vietnam for a summit in Hanoi with US President Donald Trump, on Kim Il Sung square Pyongyang on February 28, 2019. - The US-North Korea nuclear summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal, with President Donald Trump saying he had decided to 'walk' in the face of Kim Jong Un's demands to drop sanctions. (Photo by Kim Won Jin / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean students read the Rodong Sinmun newspaper coverage of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visiting Vietnam for a summit in Hanoi with US President Donald Trump, on Kim Il Sung square Pyongyang on February 28, 2019. - The US-North Korea nuclear summit in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal, with President Donald Trump saying he had decided to 'walk' in the face of Kim Jong Un's demands to drop sanctions. (Photo by Kim Won Jin / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
The motorcade of North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un arrives at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim sounded an optimistic note at the start of their second set of face-to-face meetings, as the U.S. leader sought to advance nuclear talks that have largely stalled since their first summit in June. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Police outriders lead U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade to the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sounded an optimistic note at the start of their second set of face-to-face meetings, as the U.S. leader sought to advance nuclear talks that have largely stalled since their first summit in June. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade arrives at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sounded an optimistic note at the start of their second set of face-to-face meetings, as the U.S. leader sought to advance nuclear talks that have largely stalled since their first summit in June. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Some experts on North Korea expressed hesitation over the reports, noting that Pyongyang’s reclusive nature makes it hard to pin down who may or may not have been punished by the Kim regime. Several senior officials have been reported to be executed or disappeared only to reappear in public several months later.

Relations with North Korea have declined since the summit in Hanoi, although Trump has continued to tout his relationship with Kim, praising the leader earlier this month as a “very smart man.” Trump also denied that Pyongyang had fired any ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions, even though his own national security adviser, John Bolton, said last weekend there was “no doubt” North Korea had done just that.

“My people think it could have been a violation,” Trump said earlier this week during a state visit to Japan. “I view it differently.”

The North has grown openly antagonistic toward several Trump officials who have urged the president to take a harder line against Kim, including Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In April, the North’s state-run news agency quoted several senior officials who said they would no longer speak with Pompeo and preferred that he be replaced with someone more “mature.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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