Pompeo taking lead role in planning Trump’s North Korea meeting: report
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is taking the lead in back-channel communications with North Korea as President Trump prepares to meet with the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, The New York Times reports.
Pompeo, whom Trump announced this week he would appoint as his new secretary of State, has been dealing with North Korean representatives through a channel between the CIA and its counterpart in North Korea and has been in contact with South Korea’s intelligence chief, who helped broker the Trump-Kim meeting, according to the report.
The CIA’s role in communicating with North Korea reflects the diminished role of the State Department, which traditionally handles such high-profile diplomatic meetings, and comes after Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week.
Pompeo still needs to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as the nation’s top diplomat, but the Times noted that by working through the CIA’s channels he could be involved in the kind of diplomatic work he will be expected to carry out at the State Department.
First daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump is also stepping up and announced she will meet South Korea’s foreign minister in Washington following Tillerson’s ouster.
CIA officials have been involved in sensitive diplomacy with North Korea in the past, with former CIA Director James Clapper secretly visiting the country in 2014 to negotiate the release of American captives being held there.
Trump shocked many in Washington this month when he agreed to a meeting with Kim to discuss denuclearization, a meeting that would be the first of its kind between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president.
“The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World,” Trump tweeted last week. “Time and place to be determined.”
North Korean officials were likely surprised to learn that Trump was eager to accept the meeting, a former top U.S. official said this week.
“To be frank with you, I think they were a little bit surprised that Washington, President Trump readily accepted. They thought it would take a little time,” Joseph Yun, the former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, told CNN.