Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state – CIA boss Mike Pompeo – is said to have travelled to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un.
Two US officials told the Washington Post that Mr Pompeo had made the secret visit to Pyongyang during the first weekend in April.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said the trip was to prepare for an upcoming meeting between Mr Trump and the country's leader.
Both the White House and the CIA declined to comment, but the Post said the pair had direct knowledge of the trip.
Mr Pompeo is in line to be the next secretary of state after being picked by the president to replace Rex Tillerson.
The news of his visit came after President Trump appeared to say he had met Mr Kim in remarks that were later clarified by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
"The President said the administration has had talks at the highest levels and added that they were not with him directly," she said.
Mr Trump is currently hosting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, but had earlier said: "We've also started talking to North Korea directly.
"We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea.
"And I really believe this allows good will, that good things are happening.
"We'll see what happens, as they always say, we'll see what happens, because ultimately it's the end result that counts – not the fact that we're thinking about having a meeting or having a meeting."
Mr Trump is due to meet Mr Kimthis month, with five locations being considered for the talks, he said.
No serving US president has ever met a North Korean leader and the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
The plans came after a surprise offer from Mr Kim to meet Mr Trump.
The president, who has previously traded only insults with the North Korean, accepted the offer, hailing it as "great progress".
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North Korea has continued to pursue its nuclear programme and missile tests over recent years, ignoring international condemnation and UN sanctions.
It has promised to stop these while talking with the US.