Three North Korean officials, including its top envoy involved in negotiations with the United States, are booked on a flight to Washington from Beijing on Thursday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol are expected to meet on Thursday or Friday in the U.S. capital to discuss a second summit between their leaders, CNN and South Korean media reported citing sources familiar with the issue.
A meeting could mean the two sides are nearing a compromise after months of standoff over how to move forward in ending North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes. Kim Yong Chol, along with North Korea's vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui, and a third official, have reservations on a United Airlines flight leaving Beijing on Thursday evening for Washington, Yonhap said on Wednesday, citing an unidentified Chinese airport official. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, asked earlier about the possibility of the top officials from the two sides getting together, said: "We have no meetings to announce."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to work towards denuclearisation at a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, but there has been little significant progress since. Pompeo planned to meet his counterpart last November, but the talks were called off at the last minute. Contact was resumed after Kim Jong Un delivered a New Year speech in which he said he was willing to meet Trump "at any time," South Korea's ambassador to the United States, Cho Yoon-je, told reporters last week.
(With inputs from agencies.)