He is believed to have been briefly demoted in 2012 following a roundup of North Korean spy networks in South Korea but reemerged after what has been described as "rehabilitation". The two planned a "day full of meetings" Thursday, the White House said.
Separate US teams have met with North Korean officials this week in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, and in Singapore, in efforts to work out the complex logistics and agenda for the proposed summit.
Kim Yong Chol speaking with Pompeo.
The official said that broadly, the "goal is denuclearization". Immediately afterward, he tweeted that he had had substantive talks on the priorities for the potential summit.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim's right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in NY late on May 30 to discuss the matter.
"The difference of the position between the North and the United States in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is still huge", South Korea's unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, said on Wednesday, as NK News noted.
Privately, there is increasing acknowledgment in the administration that any disarmament will not be immediate but could take years, and will require United States concessions along the way - a step-by-step process that some senior White House aides have previously rejected, citing North Korea's history of reneging on its promises.
A senior State Department official said the objective of the meeting was to seek a broad agreement on what a successful summit might look like just two weeks from now.
After leaving the meeting room, Mr Lavrov gifted Kim a small handcrafted box, decorated with images of characters from popular Russian stories. "It is very important to them".
"I'd like to see it done in one meeting", Trump told Reuters. It is all a process. "Hopefully, we will have a meeting on the (June) 12th", Trump said, adding there may be multiple meetings but "maybe we'll have none".
But Kim Jong Un, in a meeting with Russia's foreign minister on Thursday, complained about "U.S. hegemonism", a comment that may complicate the summit plans.
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Europe did not want a trade war , he said, but Washington had to back down from "unjustified, unjustifiable and unsafe tariffs". Mexico struck back swiftly after the United States announced today that it would impose tariffs on Mexican metal imports.
On December 22, the United Nations body unanimously imposed the most recent set of sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's November 29 test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, which military analysts have said can reach cities in the US.
Kim Yong Chol spent roughly one hour and twenty minutes at the White House and emerged from the Oval Office with Trump and Pompeo to take photos and shake hands. But there are lingering doubts on whether Mr. Kim will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies. His portfolio includes North Korea's relationship with China and, lately, the United States.
Washington has demanded that the North agree to a "complete, verifiable and irreversible" end to Pyongyang's nuclear program, which is close to the point where it could threaten USA cities with missile strikes.
Discussion on "solving the Korean Peninsula's nuclear problem" must involve the lifting of sanctions on North Korea, Lavrov told his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho before the meeting with Kim, state-run Tass news service reported.
But Pompeo suggested things are moving in the right direction.
The US president now says he still hopes to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 and pressure him to give up his nuclear weapons, although he conceded on Thursday that might require more rounds of direct negotiations.
Kim Yong Chol was expected to deliver a personal letter to Trump from the North Korean leader.
The visit marks the second time in history a North Korean official has visited the White House.
Kim Yong Chol arrived at White House Friday afternoon, where he was greeted by chief of staff John Kelly. Asked if a deal was taking shape, Trump said: "I think it will be very positive".
After exchanging threats and insults since Trump became president past year, the United States and North Korea have been trying to set up the summit between their leaders.