(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 5 paras)
SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- Mike Pompeo, the new United States secretary of state nominee, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on his secret visit to the North a few weeks ago, a U.S. report said Wednesday.
Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, made the trip as an envoy of President Donald Trump over the Easter weekend to discuss the planned Trump-Kim summit, following his nomination as the new secretary of state, The Washington Post reported, citing sources with knowledge of the trip.
It was the highest-level meeting between Washington and Pyongyang since 2000 when the then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong-il, the late leader of North Korea, according to the report.
The report comes as Trump alluded to his direct communication line with Kim during his summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Tuesday (U.S. time).
He said the U.S. is having direct talks at "extremely" high levels with North Korea.
Trump also referred to the two Koreas' potential summit agenda to end the decades-old armistice, saying that "They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war."
Five different locations are under review as the venue for his summit with Kim, the president also said, following his announcement on April 9 that the bilateral meeting may be held in May or early June.
Ahead of the Trump-Kim summit, President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit with Kim on April 27 at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom to negotiate North Korea's denuclearization and end the armistice that has kept the two Koreas in a technical state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.
Pompeo, a hardliner, was nominated to replace Rex Tillerson in mid-March in the wake of Trump's surprise decision to hold direct talks with Kim over denuclearization.
Since then, he has led preparatory talks with Pyongyang for the summit, which was initially reported to be held by May.
In his Senate confirmation hearing a week ago, Pompeo voiced optimism that Trump can achieve the denuclearization of North Korea through diplomacy in the upcoming summit.
"No one is under any illusions that we will reach a comprehensive agreement through the president's meeting," Pompeo said.
"But to set up the conditions acceptable to each side, for the two leaders who will ultimately make the decision about whether such an agreement can be achieved then set in place, I'm optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately."
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