President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that CIA Director and Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo recently held a secret meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the most concrete public step to date towards planned talks between Kim and Trump later this spring.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” the president wrote online. “Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
A White House official said Wednesday that the meeting between Pompeo and Trump actually occurred Easter weekend, as had been reported Tuesday by The Washington Post, not last week as the president wrote in his tweet.
The meeting between Pompeo and Kim marks the highest-level known talks between the U.S. and North Korean governments since 2000, when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong Il, the now-deceased father of the current North Korean leader.
A summit between Kim and Trump would represent a significant shift in relations between the U.S. and North Korea, two nations that have had an adversarial relationship since the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. North Korea has regularly threatened military action against not only the U.S., but also Japan and South Korea, with which North Korea technically remains at war.
And while past presidents have generally refused to respond to the Kim regime’s bellicose rhetoric in kind, Trump repeatedly and pointedly through his first year in office refused to take military action against North Korea off the table, at one point threatening it with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Pyongyang, for its part, peppered Trump’s first year in office with ballistic missile tests, including one that traveled over Japan, and last September detonated its sixth test of a nuclear device, its largest to date.
News that Pompeo met with Kim comes at a critical time for his confirmation process to become the next secretary of state. The CIA director and former Kansas congressman sat for a hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week but whether he will be confirmed remains an open question in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow, 51-49 majority.
With Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) away from Washington as he undergoes cancer treatments and Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) announced opposition, Pompeo’s path to confirmation will require at least one Democrat to vote in his favor. Fifteen Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), voted to confirm Pompeo as CIA director, although it remains unclear whether any will support him for secretary of state.
Trump on upcoming meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
Trump says U.S. and North Korea have held direct talks at ‘extremely high levels’
By QUINT FORGEY
Regarding North Korea, Trump sent shockwaves through the international community last month when he announced he had accepted an invitation to meet with Kim, breaking with the precedent set by his predecessors from both parties, who largely worked to isolate North Korea as punishment for its nuclear program and alleged human rights abuses.
The meeting had originally been scheduled to occur by May, but Trump said Tuesday that early June is now the likely timing. He added a warning though, that “it’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings, and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken.”