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Mr. Pompeo was greeted Friday night North Korea time at a Pyongyang airport by Kim Yong-chol, a top aid to Mr. Kim, after which two reportedly met for almost three hours and made plans to meet again Saturday.

Trump raised the rocket man reference during their meeting, the newspaper said.

Over the past quarter-century, North Korea has frustrated or outfoxed USA administrations that have attempted to stop and reverse its weapons development through diplomacy and sanctions. The game was arranged during a landmark inter-Korean summit in April to commemorate the July 4 South-North Joint Communiqué in 1972.

The last basketball friendly took place in 2003 in Pyongyang when a gym bankrolled by the South's Hyundai business group opened in the North's capital. He landed in Pyongyang Friday for the first time since President Trump met Kim at a summit in Singapore last month.

His mission is to translate the upbeat rhetoric following the first meeting between leaders of the US and North Korea into concrete action that will eliminate the threat posed by Kim's nuclear arsenal.

Choi Kang, vice-president of Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said Trump's window to lock North Korea into a genuine denuclearization process may close as early as November if his Republican Party loses congressional elections, reducing the administration's political leverage.

"Nothing has changed in North Korea", Kim Hack-yong said in a statement.

When asked Thursday whether he was wary that North Korea may now be trying to hide its nuclear program, the president told reporters, "We'll see". North Korean officials have yet to demonstrate that in working-level talks, the intelligence officials said. "If it's not true, then we go back to the other way, but I don't think that's going to be necessary".

He said that North Korea, "by dangling the possibility of giving up nuclear weapons and calling for a post-summit summit", another meeting with Trump, is managing to drag out negotiations over the details of any denuclearization. But North Korea declared its nuclear weapons program was "complete" on New Year's Day and did not require any more testing.

He said relations between the US and North Korea have "dramatically shifted" in North Korea's favor over the past few months.

He added that "the mixed signals from Washington" were probably another reason for the stance, pointing to apparently differing time frames offered for North Korean denuclearization offered by Pompeo and White House national security advisor John Bolton.

The North Korean leader is believed to have spent more than ten years at schools in and around Bern, and requested his favourite fried rösti potatoes to be served at a recent summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Pompeo is set to reach Pyongyang on Friday for further talks on denuclearization of the country.