The FINANCIAL — Media reports say U.S. President Donald Trump dispatched CIA Director Mike Pompeo to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an effort to arrange a summit between Trump and Kim over the authoritarian state’s nuclear program.
The talks between Kim and Pompeo, whom Trump has tapped to be his next secretary of state, were first reported on April 17 by The Washington Post, which said the two men met during a top-secret visit to North Korea by Pompeo over the Easter weekend, according to RFE/RL.
The report cited two individuals “with direct knowledge of the trip.”
Reuters and The New York Times later confirmed that the Pompeo-Kim meeting had taken place, citing unidentified people briefed on the matter.
The reported meeting represents the highest-level face-to-face talks between the United States and North Korea since 2000, when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.
Earlier on April 17, Trump said that Washington and Pyongyang have been conducting direct talks at “extremely high levels ” to try to arrange the summit with Kim.
“We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea,” Trump said on April 17 as he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a two-day summit at his retreat in Florida.
“And I really believe this allows goodwill, that good things are happening. We’ll see what happens,” he added.
Prior to the reports about the Pompeo-Kim meeting, there was some confusion about how high the talks between Washington and Pyongyang have gone.
As Trump took a stroll with Abe and his wife, a reporter asked the U.S. president if he had spoken directly with Kim, according to a White House press pool report.
Trump responded “yes,” but it was not immediately clear if he was responding to that question or another being shouted at him.
Asked a few minutes later to clarify if he had, indeed, spoken directly with Kim, Trump responded that the level of the talks was “a little bit short of that.”
Abe commended Trump’s “courage” in agreeing to meet Kim following months of heated rhetoric over Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program.
Trump said that five locations were under consideration for the historic U.S.-North Korea meeting, which he hopes will take place in the next two months.
“That will be taking place probably in early June or before that, assuming things go well,” he said. “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.”
He also confirmed that the two Koreas are negotiating an end to hostilities before a planned meeting between the North Korean leader and the South Korean president next week.
Trump said he supported efforts between Seoul and Pyongyang aimed at ending the state of war between the two countries that has continued since 1953.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war. People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. Subject to a deal, they have my blessing and they do have my blessing to discuss that,” he said.
With reporting by The Washington Post, The New York Times, AFP, AP, and Reuters