CIA director Mike Pompeo travelled to Pyongyang for a secret meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump confirmed today, the highest level US contact with the reclusive state ahead of a planned summit between the two leaders.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is also Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, last week met Kim, Trump said in a tweet.
The meeting in North Korea went "very smoothly"” and a good relationship was formed, Trump said. The two countries are now preparing for a summit meeting between him and Kim Jong un, he said.
"Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!" Trump said in his tweet.
Pompeo's trip was the highest level meeting with a North Korean leader since 2000 when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader, in Pyongyang.
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and Kim are due to meet next week. The two sides have agreed to broadcast parts of the summit live, the South's state news agency Yonhap has reported.
Trump told reporters during a joint media appearance yesterday with the visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that the summit meeting is likely to take place in June or early.
Five venues are being looked into for the meeting. But it does not include the United States, he said.
"I look forward to meeting with Kim Jong-un. And hopefully that will be a success. Maybe it will be, and maybe it won't be. We don't know. But we will see what happens. But I can say this: They do respect us. We are respectful of them. We are going to see what happens," Trump said.
"We've also started talking to North Korea directly. We have had direct talks at very high levels -- extremely high levels -- with North Korea," Trump said before a restricted bilateral meeting with Abe.
Asked about the location of the potential venues, Trump confirmed that they were outside the US.
"We have not picked a site yet, but we've picked five sites where it's potentially going to be. We'll let you know fairly soon," he said.
North Korea has been isolated for decades because of its alleged human rights abuses and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of international laws and UN sanctions.
It has carried out six nuclear tests, and has missiles that it says could reach the US mainland.
Pompeo's secret trip to North Korea was first reported by The Washington Post.
"The extraordinary meeting between one of Trump's most trusted emissaries and the authoritarian head of a rogue state was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea's nuclear weapons programme," the daily reported.
"The clandestine mission came late last month, soon after Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state," The Post said. Trump however tweeted that the meeting took place last week.
The New York Times said that the White House has used intelligence, rather than diplomatic channels, to communicate with North Korea, ever since last month, when Trump unexpectedly accepted Kim's invitation to meet.
Pompeo has been in close touch with the director of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon, who American officials said brokered Kim's invitation to Trump, The Times said.
According to Wall Street Journal, Pompeo went to North Korea before his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. During the hearing expressed optimism about the proposed meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
"I'm optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately so that the president and the North Korean leader can have that conversation [that] will set us down the course of achieving a diplomatic outcome that America so desperately—America and the world so desperately need," Pompeo said.