President Donald Trump received a top-level visitor from North Korea on Friday who came bearing a letter from the country’s dictator Kim Jong Un as the two sides work toward a meeting between the two world leaders.
Trump was meeting in the Oval Office with Kim’s envoy, Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and currently the country’s top nuclear negotiator. It’s the highest-level meeting between a US president and a North Korean official since 2000.
The official arrived just after 1 p.m. ET on the White House South Lawn, where foreign dignitaries are typically received by the President. This time, Trump did not greet his visitor in person, leaving that task to his chief of staff John Kelly and a top CIA official.
There was little ceremony and no handshake. They walked along the Rose Garden to the Oval Office, where Kim was expected to hand over the letter from his leader.
Ahead of the meeting, top-level US officials had not read the missive from Kim to Trump, but were aware generally of its contents, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump himself had not read it as of Thursday, and the White House described the envelope as sealed.
US officials learned of the letter’s substance through diplomatic channels in the absence of reading the letter itself, the person said.
The understanding among the US officials is the letter is generally positive and a step in the right direction toward a meeting between Kim and Trump.
Kim Yong Chol met this week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of a potential summit between Trump and Kim. That episode is tentatively set for June 12 in Singapore.
Trump abruptly canceled the summit last week, but since then has appeared more optimistic the diplomatic encounter will occur after all.