CIA chief strikes up 'good relationship' with North Korean leader at secret talks
Mike Pompeo travelled to North Korea to lay the ground for Donald Trump’s planned meeting with Kim Jong-un
CIA director Mike Pompeo struck up a "good relationship" with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a secret meeting that marked the highest-level contact between the two countries for 20 years, Donald Trump said on Wednesday.
The covert trip and the meeting between the two men – not announced at the time by either Washington or Pyongyang – came as the two countries prepared for a historic meeting between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump.
Details of the preparatory trip first emerged in The Washington Post, which said the meeting took place just over two weeks ago and shortly after Mr Pompeo was nominated to become the US secretary of state.
Mr Trump confirmed the meeting today in a tweet. "Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week," he wrote. "Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed."
Mr Trump had alluded to the trip in earlier comments while hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida estate. “We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I really believe this allows good will, that good things are happening,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens... because ultimately it’s the end result that counts, not the fact that we’re thinking about having a meeting, or having a meeting,” the president said.
The planned summit will be the first time the two leaders met since the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953, which divided the peninsula and set the ground for one of the greatest foreign-policy crises for Mr Trump more than six decades later.
The previous most high-level contact was in 2000 when Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met with Mr Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il. She later said it was like being “some very strange movie”.
The two leaders are due to meet before June, with five locations under consideration for the meeting. None of them are in the US. Administration officials are said to be looking at possible venues outside of the peninsula, including in South East Asia and Europe.
The planned meeting came after the two men traded insults last year amid increasing tensions following missile testing by the pariah state. Mr Trump derided Mr Kim as “little rocket man” and promised to destroy North Korea if the US was threatened.
The meeting – seen by the US as an opportunity to end North Korea’s weapons programme – will also be scrutinised closely by Iranian officials, given Mr Trump’s vow to end the 2015 accord limiting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Mr Kim made the offer for a summit via South Korea, an offer accepted by the president despite concerns that it would reward the regime for its aggression and give it extra legitimacy. They two sides have since communicated directly even though the countries have no diplomatic relations.
At his confirmation hearing last week to become secretary of state, Mr Pompeo played down expectations for a breakthrough deal, but said it could lay the groundwork for a comprehensive agreement on denuclearisation.
Mr Pompeo’s visit came four years after the then director of national intelligence, James Clapper, secretly visited North Korea to bring back two American detainees.
Mr Kim is set to meet South Korean president Moon Jae-in in the demilitarised zone between the rival Koreas on April 27.
Updated: April 18, 2018 03:11 PM