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Pompeo 'regrets' not making more progress with North Korea

Pompeo 'regrets' not making more progress with North Korea
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Former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPompeo visits Hill to support GOP push for Iran sanctions Pompeo joins GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill to introduce Iran sanctions act House passes legislation to elevate cybersecurity at the State Department MORE says he “regrets” that the Trump administration did not succeed in having North Korea give up its nuclear weapons. 

In an interview with conservative podcast Ruthless released Thursday, Pompeo, who is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, reflected on his clandestine trip to the hermit nation in April 2018 that marked a sharp turn in U.S. foreign policy toward a country long considered a rogue state guilty of horrendous human rights abuses. 

Photos released of the trip that showed Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSouth Korean leader pushes Biden to restart nuclear talks with North, knocks Trump Exclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee On North Korea, Biden should borrow from Trump's Singapore declaration MORE shocked the world with the personal outreach from a senior U.S. official.  

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The meeting was considered a major break from long-held U.S. policy to engage in a campaign of isolating North Korea and withholding high-level international recognition. 

Pompeo said his trip was meant to cool tensions that had risen to a fever pitch months earlier, with former President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE warning of “fire and fury” if Pyongyang threatened the United States. 

“We were trying to take the tension level down and create a situation where we could have a rational discussion,” Pompeo said in an interview with Josh Holmes. “The president was prepared to consider whether a summit might be appropriate. It was really quite the, quite the experience.”

Trump and Kim would go on to meet in person twice but both summits failed to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization.  

“I regret that we didn't make more progress,” Pompeo said. “We convinced him not to do more nuclear testing and more long-range missile testing, but we weren't able [to] get him to give up his nuclear program. You know, we got three Americans back."  

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Pompeo made a second trip to North Korea in May 2018 shortly after being confirmed as secretary of State to retrieve three Americans who were imprisoned in North Korea on charges of espionage. 

The former secretary reflected on the challenge of preparing for the meeting with Kim. 

“When I became CIA director, [I] had no earthly idea that one day I'd be on a quiet plane traveling in the dark to land at an airstrip in Pyongyang to meet Chairman Kim, who had committed the most horrific crimes against humanity,” he said, remarking on the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea and returned to to the U.S. in a vegetative state before he died. 

“I had a couple of months to prepare for it, but nothing can quite prepare you for being there,” the former secretary added.

U.S. relations with North Korea continue to be a dangerous foreign policy conundrum, with Pyongyang maintaining a nuclear weapons capability and threatening the possibility of a strike on the U.S. or allied nations in the Pacific.  

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President BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE has said he considers North Korea a top foreign policy issue but Pyongyang has rebuffed attempts by his administration to engage in diplomatic talks, and further raised tensions by conducting a ballistic missile launch last week. 

Biden, speaking in a press conference last week, said the missile launch was in violation of a United Nations resolution and that his administration is consulting with allies on how to respond, warning against any further escalations. 

The president further said that his administration is prepared for “some form of diplomacy” but that it has to be conditioned on denuclearization.