WASHINGTON — President Trump hosted an envoy from North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in the Oval Office on Friday as the two sides worked to reschedule a summit meeting that fell apart last week amid confusion and miscommunication.
Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean intelligence chief and top nuclear arms negotiator, arrived at the Executive Mansion shortly after 1 p.m. and was welcomed into the building, the first time an official from the outcast country has set foot in the White House since 2000.
He was met at the Diplomatic Entrance on the south side of the White House by the president’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and other officials. Mr. Trump did not come outside to greet the visitor, as he typically does with foreign heads of state he is hosting. Mr. Kelly ushered Mr. Kim inside without either making any comment in front of news cameras recording the moment, and then escorted him down the Colonnade to the West Wing and into the Oval Office.
Kim Yong-chol was said to be delivering a personal letter from Kim Jong-un to Mr. Trump, presumably to smooth over the rift that pulled apart the plans for a meeting. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kim Yong-chol in New York on Thursday and expressed optimism that the two sides were making progress.
Mr. Trump canceled the summit meeting, originally scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, citing what he called the “open hostility” that North Korea had shown toward his administration in the preceding days. But after a conciliatory response by the North Koreans, Mr. Trump promptly began talking about rescheduling the get-together.
Mr. Trump, who has sought to impose “maximum pressure” on North Korea through economic sanctions, has insisted that it give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons, but Kim Jong-un has sent conflicting signals about his willingness to consider that and what trade-offs he would insist on in exchange.
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each reached agreements with North Korea intended to bring an end to its nuclear weapons program, only to have the deals ultimately collapse. Neither one, however, ever agreed to meet with the North Korean leader, raising the stakes for Mr. Trump as he tries to achieve what they could not.
Mr. Clinton did host a North Korean official at the White House in October 2000, the first time a sitting American president had met with a representative of the Pyongyang government. Much like his latter-day counterpart would 18 years later, Jo Myong Rok, first vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, delivered to Mr. Clinton a personal letter from the country’s leader, Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong-un.
The meeting yielded good will but no sustained agreement, and Mr. Bush’s ascension to the White House a few months later brought to power a more skeptical group of officials who saw the North Koreans as untrustworthy. Among them was a State Department official named John R. Bolton — now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.