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Kim Jong-un

Donald Trump: ‘good relationship formed’ when CIA chief Mike Pompeo met Kim Jong-un in secret North Korea visit

Extraordinary meeting was highest-level contact between US and North Korea in almost 20 years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 8:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 7:30pm

US President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that his CIA director had met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a secret visit to Pyongyang, ahead of a planned summit between the two leaders.

“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,” tweeted Trump.

“Denuclearisation will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” he added.

The tweet came after the The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Pompeo made the trip over the first weekend of April.

The meeting was part of an effort to prepare for a historic meeting in the coming weeks between Trump and Kim, the paper said, quoting two people with direct knowledge of the trip.

The visit came shortly after Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state.

Speaking on Tuesday in Florida where he was hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Trump said he had given his blessing to discussions aimed at formally ending the Korean war.

Setting the stage for a major breakthrough, he added that “a great chance to solve a world problem” was within reach on the Korean peninsula.

Trump had also confirmed that Washington and Pyongyang had been in contact at “very high levels” and that “five locations” were being considered for his meeting with Kim.

We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea
US President Donald Trump

Pompeo has taken the lead on the administration’s negotiations with Pyongyang. His meeting with Kim marks the highest-level meeting between the two countries since 2000, when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father to discuss strategic issues.

Trump gives his ‘blessing’ as Koreas ‘plan to end their war’ 

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jnr visited the country in 2014 to secure the release of two American captives and met with a lower-level intelligence official.

Opening a two-day summit with Abe, Trump took some credit for the rapid developments related to North Korea, whose nuclear and ballistic missile tests his administration has considered the gravest national security threat to the United States.

Trump said that South Korean officials have “been very generous that without us, and without me in particular, I guess, they wouldn’t be discussing anything and the Olympics would have been a failure.” Seoul used the Winter Games, held in Pyeongchang in February, as a vehicle to reopen diplomatic talks with Pyongyang.

North Korea sent athletes and a high-level delegation to the event in a major sign of warming relations with South Korea, a US ally. That has led to a flurry of high-stakes diplomacy in East Asia, in which Trump has seized a leading role. 

“There’s a great chance to solve a world problem,” Trump 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.”

Opinion: Why Xi Jinping agreed to meet Kim Jong-un in Beijing

Hostilities in the Korean war, which involved the United States, ended 65 years ago, but a peace treaty was never signed. A top South Korean official was quoted on Tuesday as saying that a formal end to hostilities was on the agenda for the summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week in the demilitarised zone between the countries.

“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war,” Trump said.

 

Yet such a deal would be complicated and would require direct US participation and agreement. The United States signed the armistice agreement on South Korea’s behalf, and any peace treaty would have to be between the United States and North Korea.

North Korea commemorates birth of founding father Kim Il-sung

A big part of the reason a peace treaty has never been signed is because Pyongyang has long insisted that if a peace treaty was agreed, US troops would no longer be required in South Korea, a demand the United States has rejected. 

Trump’s planned session with Kim, the dynastic leader Trump has mocked as “Little Rocket Man”, comes after the two traded insults and threats last year. Trump vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if it menaced the United States or its allies, and Kim called Trump senile.

On Tuesday, Trump said the summit with Kim was likely to happen by early June if all goes well. He added a caveat: “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.”

Abe may try to shut down North Korea summits he’s shut out of

Trump later said that five locations are under consideration to host the summit and that a decision would come soon.

None of the locations was in the United States, Trump said later, in response to a question from a reporter. Administration officials are said to be looking at potential sites in Asia outside the Korean peninsula, including Southeast Asia, and in Europe.

Abe appeared delighted with the progress he made with Trump, including a pledge from the US president to raise with Kim the issue of the unresolved cases of at least 13 Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s – an important domestic issue for Abe.

 

Trump met with several families of the abductees during a visit to Tokyo in November, and the president was outraged by the death last summer of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died shortly after being released in a coma from 17 months in captivity in the North.

Three Americans remain in captivity, and US officials suggested their release is likely to be part of talks with Pyongyang. 

“This reflects your deep understanding for how Japan cares about this abduction issues. I am very grateful for your commitment,” said Abe, who also pressed Trump to maintain “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.

Trump and Abe entered their summit hoping to repair a relationship that has been strained by Trump’s decisions to meet with Kim, which has alarmed Tokyo, and his move to enact steel and aluminium tariffs without granting Japan a waiver.

Seoul, Tokyo agree on N Korea, but remain divided on wartime crimes

In a sign that the two leaders were aiming to recreate their early chemistry, Trump said the two would sneak out for a round of golf on Wednesday ahead of additional meetings.

The president referred, as he has before, to Mar-a-Lago as the “winter White House”.

Trump aides acknowledged that they are probing the possibility of the United States re-entering the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership but emphasised that such a move is premature.

 

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, played down a rift with Japan on trade and said the administration’s tariffs were aimed at punishing China, which he accused of “acting like a third-world economy.” Kudlow declared that a global coalition stands behind the Trump administration’s strategy. 

“This trade coalition of the willing that I’ve been talking about, that others have been talking about, is really aimed at China,” he said.

“China is a first-world economy behaving like a third-world economy. And with respect to technology and other matters, they have to start playing by the rules.”

Trump’s change of heart about rejoining TPP may be too late

The United States does not need the TPP to confront Chinese bad behaviour, Kudlow said. He touted a strong US economy as leverage for American ideas on trade around the world and said Trump’s tougher stance on Chinese trade has won wide international backing.

“The rest of the world is with us. The president hasn’t consciously sought this, but it’s happening, and it’s a good thing,” Kudlow said.

“So I hope China reads that carefully and responds positively.”

China on Tuesday announced temporary anti-dumping measures targeting US sorghum, potentially hitting growers in states such as Kansas and Texas that Trump won in the 2016 election.

The move discouraging imports of US sorghum widens the brewing trade war between Beijing and Washington. On Monday, the United States banned US firms from selling parts to Chinese phone maker ZTE for seven years, as the world’s two largest economies continue to exchange threats of tariffs worth billions of dollars.

Opinion: Why the US doesn’t hold a winning hand against China

But Trump sought to balance his aides’ criticism of Beijing with praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Trump has pressed to enact economic sanctions on North Korea.

“He’s been incredibly generous,” Trump said.

“President Xi has been very strong on the border, much stronger than anyone thought they would be. I’d like them to be stronger on the border, but he’s been at a level nobody ever expected. The goods coming into North Korea have been cut down very substantially.”

The Washington Post, Agence France-Presse