By Nadine White
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet former North Korean spy chief Kim Yong-chol today.
According to South Korean reports, the top aide is carrying a letter for President Donald Trump from Kim Jong-un, and a meeting between the two leaders is expected to follow soon, US officials said.
Neither the US nor North Korea has announced any meetings.
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit with Kim early this year, and has exchanged multiple letters with the North Korean leader despite little tangible progress on a denuclearisation agreement reached at their first meeting in Singapore last June.
Since then, several analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology.
A White House official, while not confirming plans a meeting, said “a lot of positive things” are happening related to North Korea’s denuclearisation.
The official said Trump and Kim had established a “good relationship” and that US-North Korea conversations were continuing.
The official said the two sides were “working to make progress” on the denuclearisation goal and that Trump “looks forward to meeting Chairman Kim again at their second summit at a place and time yet to be determined”.
At a conference of US diplomats at the State Department on Wednesday, vice president Mike Pence acknowledged the lack of progress.
He called the Trump-Kim dialogue “promising” but stressed that “we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region”.
Denuclearisation talks stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them.
The North has been demanding that the US lift harsh sanctions and provide it with security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Kim expressed frustration in an annual new year’s address over the lack of progress in negotiations.
But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit “to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.