From the outside, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's strange trip to North Korea Friday and Saturday did not look like a success. He didn't get an audience with Kim Jong Un, despite the White House saying he would — Pompeo said afterward he hadn't expected to meet with Kim — and North Korea issued a statement Saturday calling it a "regrettable" visit in which Pompeo's "gangster-like" demands "might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm." On Sunday, Pompeo sounded upbeat about the meeting, saying he refused to pay attention to what people are saying in the press, so he doesn't "go nuts."
"When we spoke to them about denuclearization, they did not push back," Pompeo said in Japan on Sunday. "The road ahead will be difficult and challenging and we know that critics will try to minimize the work that we've achieved." He said if his demands were "gangster-like," then "the world is a gangster," and said he believes the North Koreans are negotiating in good faith "because they were, and they did." In Hanoi on Monday, Pompeo held up Vietnam as a model Pyongyang should emulate of economic success after making peace with the U.S.
The North Korean statement "was a fairly serious insult directed against Pompeo," says Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and lead negotiator with North Korea. "I think it was a pretty bad start to the process, but it doesn't mean it's over yet," because with North Korea, "most of the time you come back empty-handed." On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blamed China for "pulling the North Koreans back" in the peace talks. "And to our North Korean friends, I can't say the word 'friend' yet," he added. "You asked Pompeo: 'Did he sleep well?' If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn't sleep very well." Peter Weber
President Trump is clearly an Elton John fan. "Tiny Dancer" was a campaign rally staple, he referred to North Korea's Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man" on Twitter and before the United Nations General Assembly, John had to shoot down a hopeful Trump team rumor that he was performing at Trump's inauguration, and at a rally in Montana on Thursday evening, Trump bragged about his crowd sizes, telling the audience:
I have broken more Elton John records — he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don't have a musical instrument. I don't have a guitar or an organ — no organ. Elton has an organ, and lots of other people helping. ... So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully, the brain attached to the mouth, right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important. [President Trump, Montana rally]
But it's the "Rocket Man" nickname that is making actual news. During Trump's lunch with Kim in Singapore last month, "Kim mentioned that Trump referred to him as 'Rocket Man' when tensions ran high last year," and "Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no," a diplomatic source in Washington tells South Korea's The Chosunilbo. So Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is bringing a CD with "Rocket Man" with him to Pyongyang on Friday, reportedly bearing a note for Kim from Trump and Trump's signature. Pompeo, who is under mounting pressure to get Kim to agree to concrete denuclearization steps, is also apparently bringing a letter from Trump to Kim. Many experts are skeptical that Kim is open to destroying his nuclear weapons program. Read more about Trump's gifts for Kim at The Chosunilbo. Peter Weber
The Pentagon announced Friday it has come to an agreement with South Korea to indefinitely suspend two more joint training exercises. The two countries previously announced the suspension of "large-scale" military exercises following President Trump's promise to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to stop "provocative, inappropriate, and expensive" war games.
"To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises" that were scheduled for this summer, said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White.
"This includes suspending Freedom Guardian, along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months," she continued. "In support of upcoming diplomatic negotiations led by Secretary Pompeo, additional decisions will depend upon the DPRK [North Korea] continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith." Bonnie Kristian
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still very much committed to his maybe on-again summit with President Trump in Singapore on June 12, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday. The two Korean leaders met Saturday for an unannounced discussion of how to keep the summit and inter-Korean relations on track after Trump's surprise Thursday cancellation of the scheduled negotiations.
Moon also reported Kim reaffirmed his promise to pursue "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Kim's uncertainty, he said, "is not the will for denuclearization, but the concern that if [North Korea] denuclearizes, whether the U.S. can end hostile relations and guarantee the security of the [Kim] regime." Pyongyang has long cast its nuclear development as insurance against U.S.-orchestrated regime change, and in late April, Moon's government said Kim promised to denuclearize if the U.S. pledges not to invade.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in gathered for a surprise meeting Saturday to discuss the fate of inter-Korean relations given the new uncertainty over Kim's proposed summit with President Trump.
The two-hour talks happened in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) bordering the two Koreas and focused on how to keep the Trump-Kim conversation on track. "We see it as fortunate that the embers of dialogue between North Korea and the United States weren't fully extinguished and are coming alive again," said Moon's office. "We are carefully watching the developments."
Trump said Thursday the June 12 summit in Singapore was canceled, only to indicate Friday it may be back on. "We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date," he tweeted Friday evening. On Saturday morning, Trump posted another tweet attacking The New York Times and claiming there is "ZERO disagreement within the Trump Administration as to how to deal with North Korea...and if there was, it wouldn't matter." Bonnie Kristian
North Korea on Saturday shared the "technical measures" it will take to fulfill leader Kim Jong Un's promise to dismantle his nuclear test site this month. The process will be completed by May 25, and though most of the work will be done over a three-day span, some reports indicate Kim already began to shutter the facility this past fall.
International observers — journalists from the U.S., U.K., China, Russia, and South Korea — will be invited to watch the destruction of the site's underground tunnels and conduct "on-the-spot coverage in order to show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground." Bonnie Kristian
President Trump confirmed Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning from his surprise visit to North Korea with three American prisoners who have been released by Pyongyang. "They seem to be in good health," Trump said, adding that he will greet them at Andrews Air Force Base when they arrive at 2 a.m.
Kim Dong-Chul was arrested in 2015 on the charge of spying on the government while Kim Hak-Song and Tony Kim were charged last year of "hostile acts," Politico reports. The trio's release comes ahead of Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un; the president also confirmed that a date and place for that meeting have been set. Jeva Lange
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un secretly met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in northern China on Monday and Tuesday, Chinese state-run media reported Tuesday after Kim returned to Pyongyang.
The two previously met in Beijing in March, Kim's first trip abroad since taking power. This new meeting follows Kim's recent summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and precedes his upcoming talks with President Trump.
"Xi held talks with Kim and hosted a welcome banquet for him," the Chinese report said. "Together, they also took a stroll and attended a luncheon. In a cordial and friendly atmosphere, the top leaders of the two parties and the two countries had an all-round and in-depth exchange of views on China-DPRK relations and major issues of common concern." Bonnie Kristian