Pompeo Says Left Kim Meeting Thinking Nuclear Deal Possible

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(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he assessed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting ahead of a planned summit with President Donald Trump, and concluded that there’s at least a chance for the U.S. to strike a denuclearization deal.

“My goal was to try and identify if there was a real opportunity there,” Pompeo said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I believe there is.”

Trump said on Saturday he expects a historic meeting with Kim will take place “over the next three or four weeks” and that details of the summit are still being ironed out.

Pompeo was CIA director when he met with the North Korean leader in a secretly-arranged meeting in Pyongyang over the Easter weekend.

The former representative from Kansas was confirmed by the Senate as the top U.S. diplomat on April 26. He said he found Kim to be “well prepared” when they spoke, and ready to discuss how to achieve the U.S. objective of “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.”

Trump’s Pressure

“There is a lot of work to do, but I am very hopeful that the conditions that have been set by President Trump give us this chance,” Pompeo said.

National Security Adviser John Bolton, making his first Sunday show appearances since assuming that role in March, also credited the Trump’s administration pressure on North Korea, including economic sanctions, for bringing Kim to the negotiating table.

Asked on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” whether Kim is ready to negotiate away his weapons or is merely trying to soften his image, Bolton said, “I don’t think we know at this point.” The question is whether Kim has made a strategic determination that his country would be better off without nuclear weapons, he said.

“We want to see real commitment; we don’t want to see propaganda from North Korea,” Bolton said. “We’ve seen words so far.”

‘Eyes Wide Open’

Mindful of previous times the North Korean regime has not followed through on promises, Pompeo said the U.S. has its “eyes wide open” and will require concrete action from Kim.
“We’re going to negotiate in a different way than has been done before,” Pompeo said. “We’re going to require those steps that demonstrate that denuclearization is going to be achieved.”

Pompeo said he and Kim had talked about obtaining the release of U.S. prisoners in North Korea when Kim and Trump meet. Asked whether their freedom is a prerequisite during negotiations, Bolton said on CBS that “it would be a demonstration of their sincerity.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday while traveling in the Middle East, Pompeo minimized concerns that a possible decision by the U.S. to abandon the Iran nuclear deal would sour North Korea on negotiations with the U.S.

“I don’t think Kim Jong Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, ‘Oh goodness, if they get out of that deal, I won’t talk to the Americans anymore,’ ” Pompeo said en route to Israel from Saudi Arabia, according to pool reports.

‘Dangerously Naive’

“There are higher priorities, things that he is more concerned about than whether or not the Americans stay in the” Iran agreement, he said.

Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said it would be “irresponsible” not to test whether a deal with North Korea can be reached. Still, it would be “dangerously naïve” to think that pulling out of the Iran deal won’t influence negotiations with Kim or cause the world to doubt the U.S., he said.

“If people don’t believe we keep our word, then how are they going to follow our lead?” Schiff said on ABC. “They’re not.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said that the 2015 Iran deal “puts us on a pathway to a nuclear arms race” in the Middle East, and that getting out of it will show North Korea and China that Trump is a different leader than President Barack Obama.

If Kim isn’t serious about giving up his nuclear weapons, he shouldn’t agree to meet and try to “play” Trump because that would set the countries on a path to war, Graham said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“If you play Trump, you’re going to be a big loser,” he said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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