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North Korea

Updated at 9 a.m. ET

CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret visit to North Korea earlier this month and met with leader Kim Jong Un — a meeting that "went very smoothly," President Trump said on Wednesday.

"A good relationship was formed," Trump said, adding that the direct contact with North Korea — a rare step for the U.S. — was intended to work out details of a possible Trump-Kim summit.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paid an unannounced visit to neighboring China, signaling a potential thaw in seven years of tensions between the longtime allies over the North's nuclear weapons program. The visit is Kim's first trip to another country since taking power in 2011, and it follows North Korea's recent agreement to hold talks with the leaders of South Korea and the United States.

Updated at 2:58 a.m. ET

President Trump has agreed to a face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "at a place and time to be determined," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Thursday.

The announcement came in response to a stunning invitation from Kim, relayed by South Korea's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who briefed Trump and other U.S. officials on Chung's recent meeting with Kim in Pyongyang.

Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hosted a dinner to welcome delegates from South Korea on Monday, in a visit Seoul hopes will pave the way for talks between North Korea and the United States.

The 10-member delegation includes a top national security adviser and spy chief — marking the first time South Korean officials are reported to have met the North Korean leader since he took power in 2011.

White House / Wikimedia Commons

Special counsel Robert Mueller has already charged several people associated with the Trump campaign with crimes uncovered in his investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election. Yet, some some believe there's a good chance he won't indict President Trump - even if he finds wrongdoing. 

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics kicked off on Friday — at 8 p.m. in South Korea and at 6 a.m. ET in the U.S. — with 2,900 athletes from 92 countries gathering to compete for 102 medals in Pyeongchang.

The U.S. Olympic team was led into Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium by flag-bearer Erin Hamlin.

The Winter Games run from Feb. 9-25. The Paralympics will use many of the same facilities, with 670 athletes competing from March 9-18.

Our recap of the big event:

The ceremony begins

Vice President Pence, who will lead the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on Friday, says he is prepared to announce the "toughest" economic sanctions yet on North Korea.

At the start of a six-day visit to Japan and South Korea, the vice president said the U.S. "will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever — and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all."

North Korea's ceremonial leader, Kim Yong Nam, will visit South Korea as part of a high-level delegation attending the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics this week amid somewhat eased tensions between the bitter rivals.

Kim is the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and is the nominal head of North Korea, although nearly all real power is concentrated in the hands of third-generation hereditary ruler, Kim Jong Un.

Japan's public broadcaster sent out a false alert warning of a North Korean missile on Tuesday, just three days after Hawaii residents received an erroneous message about an incoming missile.

"North Korea appears to have launched a missile ... The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground," the message read, according to a translation from Reuters.

Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET

Cocooned by cameras, North Korea's negotiating team crossed the border Tuesday by foot, walking about 100 yards to a conference building for the first high-level talks with South Korea in two years. Seated across from one another at a long rectangular table, diplomats from both sides expressed the need to improve frosty ties.

The Army is training thousands more soldiers in tunnel warfare, part of an effort to be ready to offer President Trump military options for North Korea, U.S. officials tell NPR.

North Korea is honeycombed with thousands of tunnels and bunkers, some of them discovered leading across the border and close to the South Korean capital, Seoul. Others in North Korea are hundreds of feet deep and could be used to hide troops and artillery, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Updated at 1:55 a.m. ET

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are once again publicly comparing the size of their respective nuclear arsenals, with the president tweeting that the U.S. "nuclear button" is "much bigger & more powerful" than the one controlled by Pyongyang.

South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-flagged vessel under suspicions that it illegally transferred oil to North Korea, in violation of U.N. sanctions. The vessel, the Lighthouse Winmore, was seized one month after it allegedly ferried oil, South Korean media report.

Such ship-to-ship transfers are prohibited by a U.N. Security Council Resolution that was adopted in September, part of a suite of sanctions that target North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced new sanctions on two individuals within the North Korean government, both of whom are reportedly prominent figures within Kim Jong Un's ballistic weapons development program.

Ri Pyong Chol and Kim Jong Sik are now both blacklisted — which means any assets they have in the U.S. will be frozen, although as NPR's David Welna notes, "It's not clear whether either of them, in fact, has any U.S. assets." Additionally, Americans will generally be prohibited from doing business with them.

North Korea on Sunday called the latest U.N. sanctions against the country "an act of war" that violates its sovereignty.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously decided to adopt a resolution tightening sanctions — further cutting oil supplies and cracking down on what the U.S. sees as a North Korean slave labor market. The resolution issued last week was a rebuke to North Korea that prompted Pyongyang to declare that it would further upgrade its nuclear force.

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