2 trips to NKorea with top US diplomat, 18 years apart

Mike Pompeo, Kim Jong Un
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — It began with quiet words from State Department officials: Apply for a new passport immediately. You may soon be going to a country for which ordinary U.S. passports are not valid for travel.

Vague as it was, the instruction to two reporters last Friday left little doubt about the mystery destination: North Korea.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was traveling to Pyongyang to finalize details for a U.S.-North Korea summit and bring back three U.S. prisoners.

It would be AP reporter Matthew Lee’s second visit to the isolated nation. Eighteen years ago, he had accompanied Madeleine Albright on her historic trip to North Korea, the first-ever by a sitting secretary of state.

But this was something completely different: an under-the-radar, secret mission with only two American reporters as independent witnesses.