Secret Talks Underway to Prepare for N. Korea-US Summit

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The U.S. and North Korea have reportedly been holding secret talks in preparation for President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

Read alsoChina says North Korea pledges denuclearization during friendly visit - mediaCentral 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.

Led by former Reconnaissance General Bureau chief Kim Yong-chul, United Front Department has been managing inter-Korean dialogue and North Korea's policy toward the South, including propaganda to the pro-North Korean groups in South Korea.

Since then, the North Korean leader has reaffirmed his commitment to discussing denuclearization as well as his willingness to hold summit talks with the South Korean and US presidents.

North Korea is reportedly advocating for the summit to be in Pyongyang, while the capital of Mongolia is also under consideration. The Koreas agreed on the date of the summit in a high-level meeting last week. -North Korea communications had taken place but said the two sides had held multiple direct contacts.

Whether or not Kim had genuinely offered to discuss dismantling his nuclear program was a key question surrounding his offer to meet Trump, made in March and conveyed to the USA via a South Korean envoy. 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, CNN reported. Officials said the current target is late May or even June.

North Korea has confirmed directly to the Trump administration that it is willing to negotiate with the United States over potential denuclearisation, administration officials said. South Korea's National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon has been in close contact with his U.S. and North Korean counterparts.

North Korea was "suffocating" under global sanctions, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Thursday, adding, "They need an out".