Far from being hustled in through the back door of the White House, Kim was welcomed at the south lawn entrance in front of massed ranks of cameras and escorted to the Oval Office, where the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was waiting with Trump. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's right-hand man met with Trump to deliver a letter from his leader.
He and Pompeo shook hands shortly after 9:00 am (1300 GMT) and began their talks over breakfast, with four people on each side.
Leaving the reporters, Trump noted that he hadn't yet read the letter, though he'd said minutes earlier that it was very "interesting". They continued to speak and posed for photos before Kim got into a black SUV and departed.
Kim Yong Chol is the most senior North Korean visitor to the United States since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok visited Washington in 2000 to meet President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in a verifiable way in return for sanctions and economic relief.
South Korea has accused him of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean warship and an island in 2010, and United States intelligence linked him to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014. The agency quoted Kim as saying that the North's willingness for the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula still remains unchanged" but also that the process should be "stage-by-stage basis by founding a solution to meet the interests of each other".
Trump had called it off last week in response to threatening rhetoric from the DPRK.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already exchanged several firm handshakes with Kim Jong-un during his visit to Pyongyang on Thursday.
"I'd like to see it done in one meeting", Trump told Reuters.
Kim's letter, to be delivered by Kim Yong Chol, an infamous and sanctioned North Korean official, could have served as an inflection point in the decision-making process. "Hopefully we will have a meeting on the (June) 12th", he said. "I think we're going to have a relationship, and it will start on June 12".
President Trump and Kim will fly into Singapore for a meeting on June 12 to discuss the potential for denationalization and greater cooperation between North and South Korea.
North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions have been a source of tension for decades, has made advances in missile technology in recent years but Trump has sworn not to allow it to develop nuclear missiles that could hit the United States. Moon later told reporters that the two leaders agreed the summit "must be successfully held".
Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee, was allowed into the United States despite being on a US sanctions list, and North Korean officials are not normally allowed to travel outside the NY area.
Nevertheless, the USA president had warm words for Pyongyang, saying the long discussions had touched on North Korea's denuclearisation and economic development.
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