Politics

Trump Confirms Pompeo Met With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un

Diplomacy better than ‘comparing the size of our nuclear buttons,’ Schiff says

South Koreans watch a television broadcast reporting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping at Seoul Railway Station in March. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images file photo)

Updated 7:49 a.m. | President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, his nominee to become secretary of state, met last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“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,” Trump tweeted.

The president was referring to his possible one-on-one talks with the North Korean dictator over his country’s nuclear arms and long-range missile programs. Even the Pompeo-Kim meeting is a major shift for Trump, who has threatened to use America’s nuclear arsenal to destroy Kim’s weapons.

Trump opted to disclose the Pompeo meeting just hours after press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement indicating the White House would not confirm a Washington Post report that the likely next top U.S. diplomat made the trek to the North.

“The administration does not comment on the CIA director’s travel,” Sanders said in a Tuesday night statement.

House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Wednesday morning called the Pompeo meeting "good news for diplomacy."

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"I'm glad that the meeting took place. Look, it's better than the footing we were on before when we had the president of the United States and the supreme leader comaring the size of our nuclear buttons," he told MSNBC.

Schiff, however, expressed concern that Trump, should his “winning personality” not cause the North to “denuclearize overnight,” will immediate pivot to a “military option.”

“I hope that our administration understands that this is a longterm, difficult endeavor,” Schiff said, adding his concern that the president "has been all over the map" on his approach to North Korea. "He may be, again, on his war footing a week from now," he said of Trump.

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Trump set wildly opposite expectations in one sentence earlier Tuesday for his possible summit with the North Korean leader, including that it could never happen.

He first said his one-on-one meeting with Kim could happen “very soon,” before saying he expects negotiations will allow an “early June” summit to take place. But the president then moved up the possible date to “before that” before backpedaling.

“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,” Trump told reporters as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his South Florida resort for their own summit.

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Trump said his administration has had talks with the North Korean government at “very high levels.” He also noted five locations are under consideration; none are inside the United States.

The CIA declined to comment Tuesday night on the Washington Post report the Pompeo had traveled to North Korea over the Easter weekend.

‘One way or another’

The president’s tweet came on the first full day of his mini-summit with Abe, a visit that is in part intended to mend fences. Abe was caught flat-footed when Trump abruptly announced last month he would talk directly with the North Korean leader.

Reports from his country indicated Abe initially opposed a Trump-Kim summit, and he was worried about losing sway in the region.

Part of the objective for the Mar-a-Lago meeting is to assuage Abe’s concerns that Kim may out-flank Trump in those still-being-planned talks. The U.S. president “has great respect for Prime Minister Abe’s views … on security,” the senior administration official said Friday. “The president wants [Abe’s] thoughts beyond what he has already shared. … Prime Minister Abe has very good ideas.”

Asked if Abe — during his frequent telephone conversations with Trump — has tried to convince him to cancel the Kim meetings, the official replied: “No.”

On Tuesday, Abe struck an upbeat tone about the possible Kim-Trump meeting.

“My hope is that there will be tangible progress for resolving the outstanding issues of concern,” Abe said, calling bringing home Japanese abductees from North Korea his “top priority.”

“We don’t really have a choice. It must be taken care of one way or another,” Trump said of the North Korean nuclear threat. “They do respect us. We are respectful of them,” he said, appearing to offer a window into the Kim-Pompeo meeting.

“There’s a great chance to solve a world problem,” the U.S. leader said. “This is not a problem for the United States. This is not a problem for Japan or any other country. This is a problem for the world.”

— Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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