Report: CIA Director met North Korean leader

Officials say Secretary of State nominee visited North Korea and met leader Kim Jong Un.

Elad Benari,

Mike Pompeo
Mike Pompeo

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be Secretary of State, made a top-secret visit to North Korea over Easter weekend and met leader Kim Jong Un, two people with direct knowledge of the trip told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The meeting between one of Trump’s most trusted emissaries and Kim was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the two people, who requested anonymity because of the highly classified nature of the talks, told the newspaper.

The clandestine mission, which has not previously been reported, came soon after Pompeo was nominated to be Secretary of State.

“I’m optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately so that the president and the North Korean leader can have that conversation [that] will set us down the course of achieving a diplomatic outcome that America so desperately — America and the world so desperately need,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week during his confirmation hearing.

According to The Washington Post, 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 late father, to discuss strategic issues.

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

The CIA declined to comment. The White House declined to comment as well, saying it would not discuss the CIA director’s travels. The North Korean government also declined to comment.

The report about the meeting between Pompeo and Kim came hours after Trump confirmed that the U.S. and North Korea have had direct talks at “extremely high levels”.

The U.S. has “started talking to North Korea directly,” Trump told reporters, adding, “We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea.”

In March, Trump unexpectedly agreed to a meeting with Kim, to be held by the end of May. Kim last week acknowledged for the first time his country’s contacts with the United States.

About a week after Pompeo’s trip to North Korea, U.S. officials said that officials there had directly confirmed that Kim was willing to negotiate about potential denuclearization.

The meeting between Trump and Kim was set after North Korea continued to conduct nuclear tests as it has been seeking to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

In the most recent of its ongoing missile tests, North Korea launched a Hwasong-15 missile, a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which officials said can fly over 13,000 km (8,080 miles).

Pyongyang said following the launch that it had test-fired its most advanced missile, putting the U.S. mainland within range, and also declared itself to be "a responsible nuclear power".

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