He indicated the United States may not demand North Korea give up its nuclear program before getting sanctions relief - a sequencing he said was a fatal flaw of the Iran nuclear deal he scrapped.
The North also threatened to abandon the planned Trump-Kim meeting over USA insistence on rapidly denuclearizing the peninsula, issuing a harshly worded statement that the White House dismissed as a negotiating ploy.
The decision about whether the June 12 meeting in Singapore between Kim and President Donald Trump happens is "ultimately up to Chairman Kim", Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It could very well be June 12". Trump told reporters Wednesday that "we will know next week about Singapore".
Amid the uncertainty, a White House team is headed to Singapore this weekend to work on logistics for the trip.
The officials include deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel.
The exemption will directly affect anyone in the delegation who is on the United Nations sanctions blacklist and therefore is banned from traveling and subject to an asset freeze.
If it goes ahead, it will be first meeting between a US and a North Korean leader during more than six decades of hostility, and it would come just months after the North's rapid progress toward attaining a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America fueled fears of war.
North Korea suspended planned talks last week with the South and threatened to pull out of an upcoming summit with the U.S. But the invitation to media was seen by some as an indication that its unexpected offer to end its nuclear tests still held.
South Korean lawmaker Park Byeong-seug, from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), said Washington and Pyongyang both needed a successful summit to meet their own political goals and interests, and it was highly likely the meeting would go ahead.
The creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI) said he's been to North Korea twice, seeking investments but the US government is holding him back, Fox Business Network explained.
"A bad deal is not an option", he said in prepared remarks, repeating terminology favored by President Donald Trump. "It is indeed not our model". He's said he will succeed where his predecessors failed in persuading North Korea to give up its ambitions to become a nuclear superpower.
China's visiting foreign minister said his country supports the summit being held at its now scheduled time and venue and sees no reason for a delay. "It's time to solve this once and for all", he said. "If you want to make history, now is the time". "It would certainly be better if it were all in one", Trump said, before adding, "You do have some physical reasons that it may not be able to do exactly that".
As part of a charm offensive, North Korea invited some foreign journalists to witness the slated destruction of the isolated regime's nuclear test site. On Wednesday it was escorting a group of global reporters, including an Associated Press Television crew, to witness the closure of its atomic test site.
It follows a historic meeting between the leaders of the Koreas in April. The American people are counting on us to get this right.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is coming to Washington to meet with Pompeo on June 4.
North Korea also threw the summit in doubt earlier this month when it pushed back against what it called "unilateral nuclear abandonment".
The spat between the U.S. and North Korea over what denuclearisation means raised questions about how clear Pompeo had been in his two meetings with Kim at Easter and earlier this month.
The summit would offer a historic chance for peace between adversaries technically at war since the Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty.