Pompeo said he hoped that a letter recently sent by President Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would "provide a good foundation for us to begin to continue these important discussions with the North Koreans to denuclearize the peninsula."
The North's state-run news agency on Sunday described Trump's letter to Kim as "excellent" and reported that Kim said he would "seriously contemplate" the content. What was in the letter was not revealed by U.S. or North Korean officials. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has said the two leaders have had an ongoing correspondence.
The U.S. has demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before international sanctions are lifted. For its part, North Korea wants sanctions to be lifted and other concessions by the U.S. as it moves step by step toward denuclearization.
The second Trump-Kim summit, held last February in Hanoi, ended in failure and formal talks between the two nations broke down. Trump said in June he had received a "beautiful" letter from Kim, not revealing its contents, and recently said had received a "birthday letter" from the North Korean.
Pompeo, who spoke to reporters before leaving Washington for the Mideast, said he hoped working-level talks with North Korea would resume. "We have been working to lay the foundations for that since Hanoi. We think we're in a better place. I think the remarks you saw out of North Korea this morning suggest that, that may well be a very real possibility.
Pompeo added: "We're ready to go. We're literally prepared to begin at a moment's notice if the North Koreans indicate that they're prepared for those discussions."