(Reuters) - The United States and North Korea are worlds apart in economic, political and cultural ways, but the two officials meeting in New York to explore a possible historic summit both have military backgrounds and are known as political hard-liners.
The following are some facts about U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean senior official Kim Yong Chol:
Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump’s first CIA director, became his second secretary of state on April 26, replacing the fired Rex Tillerson.
A former Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo made his reputation in the U.S. House of Representatives as a hard-right “Tea Party” conservative with hawkish world views. He is now a Trump loyalist and close adviser to the president.
Asia experts have debated whether Pompeo, 54, with his Trump-style partisanship, will help foster or hinder this year’s overtures between Washington and Pyongyang. He has said North Korea was just months away from being able to fire a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the United States.
On other fronts, the former U.S. Army officer and Harvard Law School graduate has been known to play down U.S. intelligence agency conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which Moscow denies.
Meanwhile, according to some U.S. officials, he has chosen to stress Iran’s missile development and role in Middle East conflicts instead of its adherence to the 2015 international nuclear deal.
Pompeo made back-to-back trips to North Korea in April and May to meet with leader Kim Jong Un as prospects grew for a summit with Trump.
He returned to the United States from the May trip with three American prisoners who had been freed by Pyongyang in a gesture aimed at paving the way for a summit.
He is a four-star general who is vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and a close aide to Kim Jong Un. As director of the United Front Department, he steers Pyongyang’s relations with South Korea.
Kim Yong Chol, thought to be about 72-years-old, was accused by Seoul of planning deadly attacks on a South Korean navy ship and an island in 2010. He was also linked by U.S. intelligence to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.
North Korea denied involvement in both incidents.
More recently, however, he has played a role in the easing of relations between the two Koreas and with the United States following months of belligerent rhetoric between Trump and leader Kim.
Kim Yong Chol played a role, along with South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon, in arranging a surprise meeting in April between Pompeo and Kim Jong Un in North Korea.
Compiled by Richard Cowan; editing by Grant McCool