The Washington Post on Tuesday reported on a secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean President Kim Jong-un. Pompeo confirmed the meeting shortly thereafter.
The clandestine meeting, which marks the highest-level meeting between Washington and North Korea in over 15 years, took place on Easter weekend ahead of Trump’s planned summit with Kim later this year.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong-Un in North Korea last week,” tweeted Trump on Wednesday. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
The fact that Trump refrained from tweeting about the meeting until it was revealed by the media suggests that negotiations are going well. If the meeting wasn’t a success, Trump would have canceled plans to meet with Kim. Trump says that he hopes to meet with Kim “in early June or before that,” but cautioned that the meeting is not a certainty based on Kim’s actions. If the summit does take place, it will be the first face-to-face meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean President.
The Trump Administration’s decision to use intelligence rather than diplomatic channels to communicate is an interesting development – especially considering Trump’s recent decision to promote Pompeo to Secretary of State.
Pompeo was nominated for the diplomatic position in March after Trump fired former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Pompeo is currently undergoing the nomination process in the Senate, but Trump’s decision to send him to Pyongyang makes it clear the president already sees him as the nation’s top diplomat.
Officials have confirmed that Pompeo has been using CIA channels to speak with North Korean’s intelligence agency and with South Korea’s spy chief Suh Hoon, who is believed to be responsible for brokering Kim’s invitation to meet with Trump. Using CIA resources was no doubt a convenient choice that allowed Pompeo to get involved while awaiting his move to the State Department, but some are concerned by the fact that such a historic meeting is being arranged by spy agencies rather than diplomats.
“The timing of Mr. Tillerson’s departure…was not coincidental. Mr. Trump wanted to have Mr. Pompeo in place to oversee an opening to North Korea,” reports The New York Times. Despite his attempts at diplomacy, Pompeo has “expressed extremely hawkish views about North Korea” and last summer suggested the US should push for regime change.
“It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today,” said Pompeo. “So from the Administration’s perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two. Separate capacity and some who might well have intent and break those two apart.”
Last week, Pompeo told a Senate committee that had never suggested regime change.
Editor’s note: This shows us that Trump is much further along in the negotiating process than we thought. And the fact that the meeting is still forthcoming means that the meeting with Pompeo went well.