The White House released on Thursday first photos of Mike Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump's newly-appointed secretary of state, meeting with North Korea ruler Kim Jon Un earlier this month.
Pompeo, a state secretary nominee and CIA director at the time, made a secret visit to North Korea over the Easter weekend and secretly met with Kim.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Pompeo Trump's secretary of state on Thursday, and the former CIA director set off immediately on a trip to meet key allies in Europe and the Middle East. Pompeo will travel to Brussels, Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman through Monday.
Trump said earlier on Tuesday the United States was engaged in direct talks at "extremely high levels" with North Korea to try to set up a summit between him and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
Pompeo's trip made him the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea since then-intelligence chief James Clapper in 2014.
Trump sowed some confusion by suggesting he had been speaking to Kim directly, but later clarified by saying: "Let's leave it a little bit short of the highest level."
The president's comments came as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened two days of talks at the president's Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.
Reflecting the closeness of their ties, the meetings included a walk around the carefully manicured grounds of the beachfront club and dinner on the patio with their wives. A round of golf was planned for Wednesday.
Trump said he believed there was a lot of goodwill in the diplomatic push with North Korea, but added it was possible the summit - first proposed in March and which the president said could take place in late May or early June - may not happen.
Efforts to arrange an unprecedented meeting between the U.S. and North Korean leaders have helped ease tensions over Pyongyang's development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States. Kim has agreed to discuss denuclearization, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.
"We have had direct talks at very high levels - extremely high levels - with North Korea. I really believe there's a lot of goodwill; a lot of good things are happening." Trump told reporters.
"As I always say, we'll see what happens, because ultimately it's the end result that matters, not the fact that we're thinking about having a meeting or having a meeting."
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