Kim Yong-chol, the right-hand man of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, is in the United States and is set to visit the White House on Friday as the two sides scramble to get the Kim-Trump summit back on track after the US president canceled it.
A senior North Korean official will hand over a letter from the country's leader Kim Jong-un to US President Donald Trump in a rare visit to the White House on Friday as the two sides try to put summit meeting back on track after Trump derailed it last week.
The US president now says he still hopes to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 and pressure him to give up his nuclear weapons, although he conceded on Thursday that might require more rounds of direct negotiations.
"I’d like to see it done in one meeting," Trump told Reuters. "But often times that’s not the way deals work. There’s a very good chance that it won’t be done in one meeting or two meetings or three meetings. But it’ll get done at some point."
Meanwhile, North Korea suggested during high-level talks on Friday that the two Koreas hold a joint celebration of the anniversary of a historic 2000 inter-Korean summit this month in the South, an official in Seoul said.
TRT World's Oliver Whitfield-Miocic has more from the South Korean capital.
DPRK delegation to the White House
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said late on Thursday that the details of Friday's meeting between Kim Yong-chol and Trump in Washington were still being worked out. It was not clear whether the US president would receive Kim Jong-un's envoy in the Oval Office.
It was also not clear what North Korea's leader wrote in his letter to Trump, although it was seen as raising hopes that the summit meeting might be back on.
After trading threats of war last year, the two men agreed to meet for an historic summit on June 12. But Trump canceled last week, over what he called Kim's "tremendous anger and open hostility" in a string of public statements.
Even as he pulled out, though, Trump urged Kim to "call me or write" if he wanted to revive the meeting.
Within a day, both sides were in new talks to save the summit, and Kim Yong-chol flew to New York this week to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Despite saying the two sides made "real progress," Pompeo also cautioned that there might be no quick solution.
"They'll have to choose a path that is fundamentally different than the one that their country has proceeded on for decades. It should not be to anyone's surprise that there will be moments along the way, that this won't be straightforward," he said.
North Korea's nuclear weapons programme has made significant advances in recent years and poses a threat to the United States. Trump's main goal in any talks is to eliminate that threat.
Kim has rejected previous US calls for North Korea's unilateral nuclear disarmament and argued instead for a "phased" approach to denuclearisation of the entire Korean peninsula.
That in the past has also meant removal of the US nuclear umbrella protecting South Korea and Japan.
In Pyongyang, Kim said his will to see denuclearisation on the peninsula remained "unchanged, consistent and fixed” and hoped improved North Korea-US relations would be solved on a "stage-by-stage" basis.
The North Korean visit to the White House on Friday will be the first since 2000, when President Bill Clinton met senior figure Jo Myong-rok in an unsuccessful attempt to win the reclusive nation's nuclear disarmament.
The two men met for 45 minutes and Jo brought Clinton a letter from Kim Jong-il, the late father of North Korea's current leader.
Jo wore his full military uniform when he was with Clinton, then donned a business suit to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
To make his trip this week, Kim Yong-chol needed special permission for official travel to the US because he had previously been blacklisted.
South Korea has accused him of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean warship and an island in 2010, and US intelligence linked him to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.