Secret US-North Korea talks reportedly underway to prepare for summit
The United States and North Korea have been directly communicating in secret to prepare for the upcoming summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, CNN reported Saturday, citing administration officials.
Officials noted that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump has nominated to be secretary of State, has been leading back-channel talks in preparation for the summit that the White House has indicated will happen around May.
The New York Times reported last month that Pompeo, still in his role as CIA chief, was leading the back-channel communications, a move that was seen as proof of the dwindling role of the State Department, which would normally handle such diplomatic responsibilities.
American and North Korean officials have spoken a number of times and also met in a third country, focusing on agreeing to a location for the summit, CNN reported.
North Korea is reportedly pushing to hold the talks in its capital, Pyongyang, a source told the network. It isn’t yet clear if the Trump administration would be willing to agree to hold the talks there. Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is also being considered, CNN reported.
Once a location is agreed upon, a date for the summit will be set and talks will begin about the agenda for the meeting.
The secret talks are also a preparation for a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korea counterpart set to take place before the summit is held.
Pompeo will begin the process to be confirmed as secretary of State by the Senate in upcoming weeks. He is slated to get a hearing before a key panel next Thursday.
With no clear timeline, it is unclear if he will officially be secretary of State by the time the summit is set to begin.
Trump agreed to meet with Kim — who said he’s willing to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea — after a South Korean envoy extended Kim’s invitation to the president last month.
Trump has said he is looking forward to the summit, which is expected to be held in late May or even June, sources told CNN.
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