Former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director and current secretary of state Mike Pompeo made a secret visit to North Korea during the Easter holiday and met with its leader Kim Jong-un to discuss a summit with US President Donald Trump, US officials said on Tuesday.
According to media sources in the US, a senior US official familiar with the substance of the visit said the talks had reinforced Trump's belief that constructive negotiations could be held with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, but that was not guaranteed.
A second US official said the visit was arranged by the South Korean intelligence chief with his North Korean counterpart and was meant to assess whether Kim was ready for serious talks.
He added that Pompeo, one of the closest advisers to Trump, had returned to tell him that he could go ahead with the possibility of holding a summit with Kim Jong-un.
The two officials asked not to be named, according to «Reuters».
The US president said earlier on Tuesday that the United States was in direct talks «at very high levels» with North Korea in an attempt to arrange a summit between him and the North Korean leader.
Asked about Pompeo's visit, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: «The administration doesn’t comment on CIA director's travels».
Trump's announcement came from talks with North Korea during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States.
Trump said US officials were looking at five different venues to host the meeting in late May or early June.
When asked if any of them were in the United States, Trump replied «no».
«We are having direct talks at very high levels, very high levels, with North Korea…
We will see what happens… because the outcome is what matters in the end, not just thinking about holding a meeting», Trump said.
The visit by the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency is the strongest sign yet that Trump is ready to be the first US president to meet with a North Korean leader.