President Trump tweeted incorrect information this week when announcing CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss the country’s nuclear efforts and plans for a summit between the two leaders.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning. “Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
According to White House officials who spoke with the Washington Post on Tuesday evening, Pompeo — who was recently nominated by the president to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State — actually met with the North Korean dictator over Easter weekend, more than two weeks ago. It wasn’t clear whether Trump simply made a mistake or intentionally tweeted the faulty information. The White House has not yet issued a clarification of the president’s tweet.
Additionally, as the Post noted on Tuesday night, White House officials initially declined to speak about or confirm Pompeo’s visit, saying it “would not discuss the CIA director’s travels.” It was not immediately clear whether the president had discussed with White House officials his plan to tweet about the visit before posting on Wednesday morning.
Yesterday, the White House said the administration doesn’t comment on the CIA director’s travel. https://t.co/sxOs9Z1gNq
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) April 18, 2018
Trump’s tweet comes just after the president made comments from his estate and private club in Florida on Tuesday afternoon, hinting at growing discussions with the North Korean dictator.
“We’ve also started talking to North Korea directly. We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea,” he said, sitting next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was there to discuss joint efforts at curtailing North Korean nuclear efforts. “I really believe there is a lot of good will, good things are happening — we’ll see what happens.”
The White House was later forced to clarify in a statement through Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that Trump had meant “the administration has had talks at the highest levels,” and added that they were not with him directly.
Although plans for an in-person meeting between Trump and Kim have been in the works for some time, Wednesday’s revelation that Pompeo had personally met with Kim likely caught Abe and other Japanese officials off guard. As the New York Times’ Tokyo bureau chief Motoko Rich noted on Wednesday morning, the administration’s decision to send Pompeo to North Korea signals to Abe that the United States is increasingly “acting independently of Japan, its strongest ally in Asia” on North Korean denuclearization efforts.
Wednesday’s announcement also appears to contradict Trump’s earlier statements this week, when he said on Tuesday that “Japan and ourselves are locked and we are very unified on the subject of North Korea.”
Trump has made an effort in recent days to take credit for advancing discussions on the Korean peninsula, using his joint press appearance with Abe on Tuesday to claim responsibility for the success of the Pyeongchang Olympics and give his unsolicited (and completely meaningless) permission for North and South Korea to discuss a truce.
“Without us and without me in particular, I guess, you would have to say, that they wouldn’t be discussing anything including the Olympics, which would have been a failure,” Trump said.
Referring to the ongoing North Korean and South Korean conflict, he added, “They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war.”
In the past, Trump has taken a much more aggressive stance on North Korea. In August of last year, after reports surfaced that North Korea had developed a miniature nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside its missiles, Trump threatened Kim, saying the country would be met with “fire and fury” if it continued its nuclear development efforts.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said, speaking before a group of reporters during a “working vacation” at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening, and as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
North Korean leaders immediately responded to those comments by threatening to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.