Pompeo: 'I am not advocating regime change' in North Korea

Secretary of State nominee Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE said Thursday that he is not advocating for regime change in North Korea.

“I have never advocated for regime change,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the hearing. “I am not advocating for regime change.”

Pompeo, who currently serves as CIA director, was responding to a question from Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - 2024 GOPers goal: Tread carefully, don't upset Trump MORE (D-Md.).

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Pompeo made waves last year when he made comments that were widely interpreted as supporting regime change in North Korea.

"It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today," Pompeo said at the Aspen Security Forum.

"So from the administration's perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two, right? Separate capacity and someone who might well have intent and break those two apart."

Cardin pressed Pompeo on the regime change issue and Pompeo responded, “You are misstating that.”

“Just to be clear, my role as a diplomat is to make sure that we never get to a place where we have to confront the difficult situation in Korea that this country has been head for now for a couple of decades,” Pompeo added.

If confirmed, Pompeo will be the nation’s top diplomat while the administration is preparing for a historic summit between President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Trump has said will take place in May or June.

Pompeo is reportedly already taking the lead in planning while serving in his capacity as CIA director, leading back-channel communications with Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for the summit.