A senior North Korean official will travel to Washington to deliver a letter to President Donald Trump from his leader Kim Jong Un.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Kim Yong Chol would make the trip after he and the former military intelligence chief held talks to try to salvage a summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.
He said “real progress” has been made in the last three days towards setting the conditions for a successful summit in Singapore. But he still does not yet know whether the meeting will proceed on June 12.
Mr Pompeo said he believes North Korea’s leaders are contemplating a different path that would allow their nation to more fully integrate into the international community.
The discussions ended nearly two hours earlier than expected.
“Substantive talks with the team from #NorthKorea,” Mr Pompeo tweeted after the meeting.
“We discussed our priorities for the potential summit between our leaders.”
Mr Pompeo met with Kim Yong Chol, one of the North Korean leader’s closest aides, at the apartment residence of the US deputy ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
He is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years.
He and Mr Pompeo had discussions over dinner of steak, corn and cheese on Wednesday, Mr Pompeo said.
On Thursday, Mr Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol had been expected to hold two sessions of talks, separated by a break, and finish their discussions around 1.30pm (6.30pm BST).
However, both men and their delegations left the residence at 11.25am (4.25pm BST), according to the State Department. The talks began at 9.05am (2.05pm BST).
The US secretary of state, who spoke to Mr Trump on Wednesday night and with National Security Adviser John Bolton early on Thursday, was accompanied by Andrew Kim, the head of a CIA unit assigned to work on North Korea, and Mark Lambert, the head of the State Department’s Korea desk.
“We are doing very well with North Korea,” Mr Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing on a trip to Texas.
“Our secretary of state is having very good meetings. I believe they will be coming down to Washington on Friday. A letter being delivered to me from Kim Jong Un. It is very important to them.”
“I think it will be very positive. We will see what happens. It is all a process. Hopefully we will have a meeting on the (June) 12th,” Mr Trump said, adding there may be multiple meetings but “maybe we’ll have none”.
Mr Pompeo’s talks with Kim Yong Chol are aimed at determining whether a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, originally scheduled for June 12 but later cancelled by Mr Trump, can be restored.
“The potential summit between @POTUS and Chairman Kim presents #DPRK with a great opportunity to achieve security and economic prosperity,” Mr Pompeo tweeted shortly before Thursday’s meeting began.
“The people of #NorthKorea can have a brighter future and the world can be more peaceful.”
But Mr Kim, in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday, complained about “US hegemonism”, a comment that may complicate the discussions in New York.
“As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Mr Kim told Sergey Lavrov.
North Korea’s flurry of diplomatic activity following a torrid run of nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests Mr Kim is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the international legitimacy the summit with Mr Trump would provide.
However, there are lingering doubts on whether he will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.