The United States is assuring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his ouster is not part of the agenda for the summit next month between Kim and President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday.
“We will have to provide security assurances, to be sure,” Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News.
The promise not to invade North Korea nor otherwise seek Kim’s overthrow would be incentive for him to give up his nuclear weapons.
“This has been a trade-off that has been pending for 25 years,” Pompeo said, referring to the long history of failed negotiations with Pyongyang as well as the North Korean narrative that the United States is a mortal threat.
Trump is scheduled to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 for an unprecedented summit.
On CBS, Pompeo said he had already provided that assurance to Kim.
“I have told him that what President Trump wants is to see the North Korean regime get rid of its nuclear weapons program, completely and in totality, and in exchange for that we are prepared to ensure that the North Korean people get the opportunity that they so richly deserve.”
“No president has ever put America in a position where the North Korean leadership thought that this was truly possible, that the Americans would actually do this, would lead to the place where America was no longer held at risk by the North Korean regime,” Pompeo said.
The U.S. position is not new — Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, had also stressed that the United States would not seek Kim’s ouster — but it carries additional weight now that Trump and Kim are to face to face. It is also significant because of past statements by both Pompeo and new White House national security adviser John Bolton about potential regime change in North Korea.
Pompeo said last year that the most dangerous element of the North Korea nuclear weapons problem “is the character who holds the control” over the weapons.
“So, from the administration’s perspective, the most important thing we can do is separate those two, right?” Pompeo, who was CIA director at the time, had said at the Aspen Security Forum. “Separate capacity and someone who might well have intent and break those two apart.”
However, he told senators during his confirmation hearing last month that he does not support regime change in North Korea.
Bolton, speaking Sunday on CNN, said his own past advocacy for regime change in North Korea and in Iran was the view of “a free agent” and is irrelevant to his current job.
“I’m the national security adviser to the president,” but President Trump calls the shots, Bolton said.
As recently as December, Bolton had said that he favored “regime elimination” in North Korea.
“My proposal would be: eliminate the regime by reunifying the peninsula under South Korean control,” Bolton had said on Fox News, where he was a frequent commentator. Asked whether he is calling for regime change, he replied, “Yes. Regime elimination with the Chinese. This is something we need to do with them.”
Bolton said that if Trump can negotiate an agreement with Kim, it might be submitted to the Senate as a treaty as the next step in the ratification process.
“It’s entirely possible we could,” Bolton said, adding that to do so would address “one of the criticisms of the Iran deal.”
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal was concluded as a compact among nations but was not submitted to the Senate for ratification by the Obama administration. Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement last week. Bolton said Sunday that it should not have come as a surprise to European powers.
European companies could be subject to U.S. sanctions if they continue doing some business with Iran, he said, adding that the threat of such sanctions will have a “dramatic” effect on Iran’s already struggling economy.
On ABC, Bolton said Trump will raise the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea as well as the detention of South Koreans when he sees Kim. Both issues are of intense importance to U.S. allies. But Bolton hedged on how far Trump might take any human rights criticism of a regime the United States has previously accused of mass incarceration, torture and starvation of civilians.
“This first meeting is going to be primarily on denuclearization,” Bolton said, adding that other issues could follow.
Pompeo also said that if the summit leads to successful negotiations, the outcome will bring private investment in North Korea. He said it will include helping North Korea build out its energy grid and develop its agriculture program so it can grow enough food for its people.
“Those are the kinds of things that, if we get what it is the president has demanded – the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea – that the American people will offer in spades,” he said.
Pompeo said a lot of work remains to achieve that goal.
“Our eyes are wide open with respect to the risks, but it is our fervent hope that Chairman Kim wants to make a strategic change,” he said. “A strategic change in the direction for his country and his people, and if he’s prepared to do that, President Trump is prepared to assure that this can be a successful transition.”
Pompeo went to North Korea last week to discuss preparations for the summit and returned with three U.S. citizens who had been detained in North Korea. He met for almost 90 minutes with Kim, his second face-to-face encounter with the North Korean leader, and he described him as professional and knowledgeable.
“He, too, is preparing for June 12, he and his team,” Pompeo said. “We’ll be working with them to put our two leaders in a position where it’s just possible we might pull off a historic undertaking.”
On CBS, Pompeo contrasted the Trump administration’s approach with those of previous presidents who tried to negotiate North Korea’s denuclearization.
“We’re hopeful that this will be different,” he said. “That we won’t do the traditional model, where they do something, and we give them a bunch of money, and then both sides walk away. We’re hoping this will be bigger, different, faster. Our ask is complete and total denuclearization of North Korea, and it is the president’s intention to achieve that. ”
In exchange, he said, North Korea will get what Pompeo characterized as “our finest” – “Our entrepreneurs, our risk takers. our capital providers.”
He said private equity, encouraged by sanctions relief, would help North Korea improve its electrical grid, infrastructure and agricultural production.
“We can create the conditions for real economic prosperity for the North Korean people that will rival that of the South,” he said.