US defence chief James Mattis silent on North Korea talks

US Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters he does not want to comment on reports of a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing the 'potential for misunderstanding'.

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) -  "So, I think North Korea is going to go very well..."

US President Donald Trump is clearly excited about a possible meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Trump, so far, is taking every opportunity to talk up the potential for an historic meeting between a US president and the North Korean dictator.

"I think they want to do something, I think they want to make peace, I think it's time," said Mr Trump.

But there is one US official who does not want to discuss the subject.

"Because it's that delicate, when you get into a position like this, the potential for misunderstanding remain very high or goes higher," said US Defence Secretary James Mattis.

Mr Mattis, a former Marine general, on Sunday (March 11) told reporters on board a jet headed for Oman, that the diplomacy was too sensitive to risk miscommunications.

He said, "Right now every word is going to be nuanced and parsed apart across different cultures, at different times of the day, in different context."

Mr Mattis has long championed diplomacy as his preferred means to resolve the escalating nuclear tensions with North Korea, even when President Trump called such efforts a waste of time.

Now with a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim suddenly - and still tentatively - scheduled for May, Mr Mattis wants the diplomats and politicians to set the tone.

In fact, it is not clear how the head of the Pentagon will even be involved in the process.

"So I want those who are actually engaging in the discussions to be actually the ones who answer all media questions about it," he said.

"I don't think there's any doubt about who's going to take the lead on this. The President of the United States is going to take the lead on resolving this important conflict with North Korea," said US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo. 

Mr Pompeo told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that the commander-in-chief was taking full advantage of this possible opening.

"We're going to work hard to make sure that we get what it is the president has set out very clearly for his entire time in office. Which is the complete, verifiable, irreversable, denuclearisation of North Korea," he added.

Mr Pompeo said Kim Jong Un's regime has agreed to suspend nuclear and rocket testing in advance of the possible meeting.

The CIA director also said US military exercises on the peninsula will continue, and sanctions against North Korea will remain in place.