A US ambassador has given North Koreas top diplomat a letter from President Donald Trump to Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un at a conference of Southeast Asia nations in Singapore, the State Department said on Saturday.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that US Ambassador Sung Kim, travelling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, gave the letter from the President to North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho immediately after they shook hands during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit here, the Washington Post reported.
According to Nauert, Pompeo told Ri that they "should talk again soon" and Ri replied in the affirmative. "There are many productive conversations to be had," the North Korean official said.
Beyond the brief exchange at the group photo, Pompeo and Ri did not have a more formal meeting.
Nauert called it a "step in the right direction" from where the US and North Korea were a year ago.
"We had a quick, polite exchange," Pompeo wrote on Twitter. "Our US delegation also had the opportunity to deliver (Trump's) reply to Chairman Kim's letter."
This was a reference to Kim's recent letter to Trump, which the latter described as "nice" in a Twitter post.
During the event, Pompeo described himself as "optimistic" that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula remains an achievable goal, but one that will take time.
"From my meetings here, the world is united in seeing this achieved," he said. "There has not been single country that hasn't thanked the US for its efforts in moving the world towards the possibility of achieving this. … I'm optimistic that we will get this done in the timeline, and the world will celebrate what the UN Security Council has demanded."
Earlier Saturday, Pompeo suggested the timeline will be determined in large part by the North Korean leader.
"The ultimate timeline for denuclearization will be set by Chairman Kim, at least in part," he said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.
"The decision is his. He made a commitment and we're very hopeful that over the coming weeks and months we can make substantial progress towards that and put the North Korean people on a trajectory towards a brighter future very quickly."