- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes a speech at 5th Conference of Cell Chairpersons of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on December 23 in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang December 24, 2017.
- KCNA/via REUTERS
- US and North Korean officials are holding secret talks ahead of a planned meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
- Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director and Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, is leading the discussions.
- The talks could happen as soon as next month, though the White House has publicly wavered over the meeting.
The US and North Korea are holding secret, high-level discussions ahead of a planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, CNN reported.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo – who is also Trump’s pick for Secretary of State following the ouster of Rex Tillerson – and a team at the CIA have been preparing for the talks with their North Korean counterparts through intelligence back-channels, several administration officials told CNN.
Officials from both countries have spoken and have met in a third country. North Korea has reportedly been pushing for the meeting to happen in Pyongyang, though sources told CNN Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, has been floated as a possible neutral location.
Pompeo, one of Trump’s closest advisers, is set to take over the diplomatic process between the two countries if he is confirmed by the Senate. Pompeo will begin the Senate confirmation process next week.
Trump ousted Tillerson last month. Tillerson said the US was “ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk” in December.
South Korea’s national security adviser announced in March that the meeting between Trump and Kim would happen by May. The White House, however, has wavered on committing to the meeting, saying North Korea needs to take “concrete” steps towards denuclearization first.
Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of March, marking Kim’s first trip outside of North Korea since he took over leadership from his father, Kim Jong Il. Trump said there was a “good chance” of peace following the talks between China and North Korea, though he added, “maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained.”