Outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo was not originally slated to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his secret trip to Pyongyang, President Trump said Thursday.
Pompeo, who was confirmed by the Senate Thursday as secretary of state, was the president's envoy for a preliminary meeting ahead of Trump's planned summit with Kim, which he has said would take place in late May or early June. Trump gave no new details on the timing or location for the planned summit during the wide-ranging interview, saying as he did last week that five sites are under consideration.
The sites are believed to include at least two in Asia — likely Mongolia and Vietnam — and two in Europe (Switzerland and Sweden). The fifth site may be Russia, a party to the last round of international talks with North Korea. Trump said last week that the meeting would not be held in the United States, and other U.S. officials have ruled out China and South Korea as possible locations.
Trump said Thursday that he could choose to walk out of a meeting with Kim “respectfully,” if it appears to be unproductive. He also said there may not be a meeting. He had said the same last week when he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida resort for a summit largely devoted to planning for the North Korea session. Leaders of North and South Korea are slated to meet Friday for the first time, another step toward the planned U.S.-North Korea summit.
Trump said earlier this week that the goal of talks with Kim is simple: “They give up their nukes.”
Trump marveled Thursday at the swift change in circumstances regarding North Korea, recalling the hot rhetoric of last year, when he traded insults with Kim and said on Twitter that his nuclear “button” was bigger than Kim's. He complained that the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea was badly managed by previous presidents and that he hasn't been credited with changing the dynamic.
Trump said that news coverage of the planned summit has falsely claimed that he is “giving up” something by talking with North Korea. He singled out NBC host Chuck Todd for particular complaint.
“I'm saying to myself, 'all these things he’s given up?' I’ve never given up anything,” Trump said. “People have to understand the news is so unfair.”
Coverage of what would be an unprecedented meeting between U.S. and North Korean leaders has sometimes included the historical context that merely holding the session at all is a form of concession to Kim, since his family dynasty seeks parity with the United States. A meeting between the leaders of both countries signals such parity, and had been considered a reward that the United States would bestow only after demonstrated success in negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons.
Pompeo made the trip in his capacity as CIA chief. The fact that lawmakers were not notified about the visit has been cited by Democrats who opposed Pompeo for the job of America's chief diplomat.