CIA director had secret meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

Mike Pompeo travelled to lay groundwork for talks with Donald Trump, president confirms

Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA and incoming secretary of state, had a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea during Easter. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA and incoming secretary of state, had a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea during Easter. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

 

Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, had a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea during Easter, US president Donald Trump has confirmed.

Two people with direct knowledge of the trip told the Washington Post that Mr Pompeo met with the North Korean leader as part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. The mission came soon after Mr Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state.

On Wednesday morning Mr Trump tweeted: “Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. 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!”

It was the highest level meeting between the two countries since 2000, when then secretary of state Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong-il, Mr Kim’s father. Asked about the report, a White House spokesman said: “We do not comment on the CIA director’s travel.”

Speaking to the press on Tuesday at his Florida retreat in Mar-a-Lago, sitting alongside visiting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Trump said he gave his “blessing” to North and South Korea, whose presidents are due to meet on April 27th, to declare a formal end to the Korean conflict. Three years of fighting ended in an armistice in July 1953, but there was never a formal peace agreement.

Direct contacts

Mr Trump also revealed that direct contacts were already taking place between senior US and North Korean officials. “We have also started talking to North Korea directly. We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I truly believe there is a a lot of good will. A lot of things are happening. Good things are happening,” Mr Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. Because it’s the end result that counts, not the fact that we’re thinking about having a meeting.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: It was the highest level meeting between the two countries since 2000, when then secretary of state Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong-il. Photograph: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: It was the highest level meeting between the two countries since 2000, when then secretary of state Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong-il. Photograph: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images

Asked later if he had personally spoken to Kim Jong-un, Mr Trump gave different responses within a few minutes, at first replying “yes” and then saying “Well, let’s leave it a little bit short of that.” Mr Trump added that the leaders’ summit could be “in early June or a little before” and that five possible venues are being discussed.

But he conceded it was possible that the unprecedented meeting might not happen at all. “It’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings, and we’ll just continue to go along this very strong path that we’ve taken,” the president said. “But we will see what happens.”

James Schoff, a former senior Pentagon official overseeing Korea policy, said Mr Trump had confirmed rumours of direct contacts that had been circulating in Washington. “My understanding is that it is the CIA taking the lead, with direct discussions on venues and shaping the agenda,” Mr Schoff, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.

The key question at any summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim is whether the North Korean leader is serious about dismantling his regime’s nuclear weapons and missiles programme and what he would demand from the US in return.

There has never been a summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, though Bill Clinton came close to agreeing to meet Mr Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, at the end of Mr Clinton’s spell in office in late 2000.

Peace treaty

Referring to next week’s summit between Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, Mr Trump said he backed efforts to bring a formal end to the conflict that broke out 68 years ago.

“They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war,” he said. “People don’t realise the Korean war has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. So, subject to a deal, they would certainly have my blessing.”

Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, said on Twitter : “A peace treaty has been in the mix as part of a deal with North Korea for decades ... The North will likely seek a peace treaty in the early stages of a negotiation, arguing that they cannot denuclearize until the war has officially ended. However, US will likely want a peace treaty to be concluded toward the end of the process.” – Guardian