ONE of US President Donald Trump’s closest advisors Mike Pompeo, the Director of the powerful Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), recently made a top secret visit to North Korea in which he met with the hermit state’s leader Kim Jong Un.
Unnamed US officials have said that Pompeo made the visit over the Easter Weekend in order to discuss a planned summit between Kim and Trump which is slated for May or June, The Washington Post first reported on Tuesday.
The CIA Director’s visit makes him the highest ranked US official that is known to have met with Kim Jong Un and it represents the highest-level contact between the two countries since 2000 when late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Pompeo was named as the new Secretary of State a month ago, after President Trump fired Rex Tillerson. The meeting with Kim would have taken place shortly after Trump nominated him for the role.
The CIA and White House have declined to comment on Pompeo’s trip, with White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders stating that: “The administration does not comment on the CIA director’s travel.”
“The president said the administration has had talks at the highest levels and added that they were not with him directly,” added Sanders, following Trump’s comment earlier on Tuesday that the US was engaged with North Korea at “extremely high levels” to set up the summit.
Pompeo told his Senate confirmation hearing for the post of secretary of state this week he was optimistic a course could be set at a Trump-Kim summit for a diplomatic outcome with North Korea, but added that no one was under any illusion that a comprehensive deal could be reached at that meeting.
Pompeo said the aim of the summit would be “an agreement … such that the North Korean leadership will step away from its efforts to hold America at risk with nuclear weapons” and that Pyongyang should not expect rewards until it takes irreversible steps.
The news came after Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened two days of talks at the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump said he believed there was a lot of goodwill in the diplomatic push with North Korea, but added it was possible the summit – first proposed in March and which the president said could take place in late May or early June – may not happen.
Efforts to arrange the unprecedented meeting have helped ease tensions over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States. Kim has agreed to discuss denuclearisation, according to US and South Korean officials.
“I really believe there’s a lot of goodwill; a lot of good things are happening,” Trump told reporters.
“As I always say, we’ll see what happens, because ultimately it’s the end result that matters, not the fact that we’re thinking about having a meeting or having a meeting.”
Trump, who has exchanged bellicose threats with Kim in the past year, said US officials were looking at five locations for a meeting, none of which were in the US. A US official said sites in Southeast Asia and Europe were among those under discussion. Kim has rarely left North Korea.
Additional reporting from Reuters.