The United States and North Korea have been holding secret, direct talks to prepare for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, a sign that planning for the highly anticipated meeting is progressing, several administration officials familiar with the discussions tell CNN.
Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and a team at the CIA have been working through intelligence back-channels to make preparations for the summit, the officials said. American and North Korean intelligence officials have spoken several times and have even met in a third country, with a focus on nailing down a location for the talks.
The North Koreans are pushing to have the meeting in their capital, Pyongyang, the sources said, although it is unclear whether the White House would be willing to hold the talks there. The Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar has also been raised as a possible location, the sources said.
The talks between intelligence officials are laying the groundwork for a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korea counterpart, the head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, in advance of the leaders’ summit. Officials said the decision to use the already existing intelligence channel was more a facet of Pompeo’s current status as CIA director as he awaits confirmation as secretary of state than a reflection of the content of the discussions.
The Chinese have also provided a briefing to the White House after Kim and President Xi Jinping met in Beijing late last month.
Trump is due to meet in two weeks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Abe is expected to come bearing a list of concerns about opening talks with Kim.