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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to visit Pyongyang in a gesture created to highlight peace efforts on the Korean peninsula, South Korea's presidential office has said.

This week, he held talks with the USA secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, where Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said he "explained in detail the proposals for solving the denuclearisation issue", although no details were provided.

The North Korean dictator is usually seen being chauffeured in a top-of-the-line Mercedes limousine, such as in April when an escort of bodyguards ran alongside Kim's vehicle on the way to his summit with South Korean President, Moon Jae-in.

Kim told his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, at a summit last month that he would "ardently welcome the pope if he visits Pyongyang", according to a spokesman for the presidential Blue House. Nuclear diplomacy later stalled because of suspicions over how honest North Korea is about its disarmament pledge.

Kim told Moon of his wish to meet the pope during last month's summit of the two leaders, the spokesperson added.

Mr Moon has said he expects Mr Kim to visit Russian Federation soon and possibly meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, although he has not commented on the likelihood of the Pope travelling to Pyongyang. Moon said on Monday that he expects Kim to visit Russian Federation soon and possibly hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Vatican said in a statement that the pope will receive Moon at noon (1000 GMT) on October 17.

Moon plans to convey Kim's desire for a papal visit when he travels to the Vatican next week.

The invitation to the pope is the first by a North Korean leader since 2000.

Religious freedom is enshrined in the North's constitution, but all religious activity is subject to extremely tight restrictions and completely banned outside of state-sanctioned institutions.

Kim held an unprecedented summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, and pledged to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

While Kim's actions since have fallen short of Washington's demands, the Trump administration is preparing for a second summit.

North Korea's constitution promises a "right to faith" but a 2014 United Nations report said Christians face "persecution and severe punishments" if they practiced their religion outside state-controlled Churches.

Moon is embarking on a nine day tour of Europe from October 13 to 21 that will include stops in France, Italy and Denmark on top of the Vatican.