President Donald Trump confirmed on April 18 that secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un last week.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
American officials confirmed that Pompeo, Trump’s nominee to become the new head of the State Department, traveled to Pyongyang over the Easter weekend, sometime between March 31 and April 2. It was the highest-level meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials since 2000.
Simultaneously, North and South Korean officials are said to be negotiating a peace treaty ahead of a meeting between their leaders next week. The two nations ended the 1950–53 war with an armistice, but no peace treaty.
“As one of the plans, we are looking at a possibility of shifting the Korean Peninsula’s armistice to a peace regime,” a top South Korean official said in Seoul earlier on April 18.
“But that’s not a matter that can be resolved between the two Koreas alone. It requires close consultations with other concerned nations, as well as North Korea,” the official said.
On April 17, Trump backed the two nations’ peace efforts.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war,” Trump said while hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on April 17. “People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. So, subject to a deal, they would certainly have my blessing. And they do have my blessing to discuss that.”
Abe praised and credited Trump for the breakthrough in North Korea relations.
“And background of this change is Donald’s unwavering conviction as well as the determination that you demonstrated in addressing the issue of North Korea,” Shinzo told Trump at Mar-a-Lago. “So your stance made it possible to achieve this major change.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also previously attributed the progress to Trump.
Pompeo’s visit to the North was arranged by South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, and was intended to assess whether the communist leader was prepared to hold serious talks, a U.S. official said.
Pompeo flew from a U.S. Air Force base in Osan, south of Seoul, said an official with the South’s defense ministry. The South’s presidential office declined to comment on the trip.
Trump qualified his April 17 remarks by noting that though a meeting with North Korea is in the works, it remains to be seen what will result from the talks. Should they break down, Trump plans to maintain maximum pressure and sanctions, he said.
“As I always say, we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “Because ultimately, it’s the end result that counts, not the fact that we’re thinking about having a meeting or having a meeting.”