North Korea's lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the US is expected to hold talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and could also meet President Donald Trump during a visit aimed at clearing the way for a second US-North Korea summit.
Kim Yong Chol arrived in Washington on Thursday evening for his first visit since he came last June ahead of a landmark meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
Efforts made since then to get Pyongyang to denuclearise appear to have stalled.
Hours before Kim Yong Chol's arrival, Trump - who declared the day after the June 12 Singapore summit that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over - unveiled a revamped US missile defence strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and "extraordinary threat."
Kim Yong Chol, a hardline former spy chief, was due to meet Pompeo on Friday, when he could also go to see Trump at the White House, a person familiar with the matter said.
The visit is a sign of potential movement in a diplomatic process that has struggled for months and, according to the source, could yield an announcement of plans for another summit.
However, there has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over US demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang's demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.
Kim Jong-un said in a New Year speech he was willing to meet Trump "at any time."
On his last visit to Washington, Kim Yong Chol delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un to Trump that opened the way for the summit in Singapore.
That meeting yielded a vague pledge from the North Korean leader to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, which led Trump to declare that there was "no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."
CNN quoted a source familiar with the US-North Korea talks as saying that Kim Yong Chol would be carrying a new letter for Trump.
US-based analysts said that the North Koreans would likely be seeking a clearer message from the Trump administration on any concessions it may be willing to make.
Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has good relations with both the United States and North Korea, has been widely touted as the most likely venue for a second Trump-Kim summit.
Australian Associated Press