Background Briefing On Secretary Pompeo’s Travel To Meet With Representatives From the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I’ll just be on background as a senior administration official.

QUESTION: Administration, not State Department?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, senior State Department official’s fine.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary is traveling to North Korea to meet with the North Korean Government to help set the table for the meeting � possible meeting, I should say; possible meeting —

QUESTION: Summit, you mean?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Possible meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. We � the Secretary will be listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantively changed since Kim’s declaration on New Year’s Eve to mass produce nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, to mass produce, you said?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Nuclear weapons?

QUESTION: Warheads.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To mass produce nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them. So on January 1st, on his New Year’s Eve � or his New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve speech, he declared that North Korea will be mass producing nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them. It’s only about a year ago that he used a chemical weapon to assassinate somebody in � his half-brother in another country. We’re going to be listening for have they turned the page and are they ready to address the areas that directly affect American national security.

We are very clear-eyed, the Secretary’s very clear-eyed about not repeating the mistakes of the past. The last 27 years of American diplomacy have allowed North Korea to become a threat to our security and the security of our allies, and the Secretary is very mindful about not repeating the mistakes of the past. And this will require a new and bold approach. We are looking for bold steps. Anything less would be to repeat the mistakes of the past.

I would also say that we continue to work very closely with our Japanese and Korean allies in the run-up to the possible meeting in June.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: You know how far out we are? I’m wondering if it’s possible that we’re going to land before 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know how far out we are. He wants to know how far we out � how far are we out.

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

PARTICIPANT: One hour.

QUESTION: One hour out?

PARTICIPANT: We’re an hour out.

QUESTION: So we’re going to be landing —

QUESTION: From landing in —

PARTICIPANT: From landing (inaudible).

QUESTION: So the President basically looked at Pompeo’s schedule and saw he was going to arrive (inaudible) 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

QUESTION: What’d you say?

QUESTION: I’m trying to figure out why this whole thing is happening like this. My understanding of the (inaudible) for the JCPOA withdrawal is that the last point, point number four, is that withdrawing from the deal doesn’t mean that we won’t negotiate with our adversaries, because look at what we’re doing with North Korea essentially?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: When you say point four, what do you mean?

QUESTION: Well, there were four baskets of � this guy’s shop created this whole communication strategy, right? And that � the last one in —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Has this been publicly released? I’m just not sure what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: No. No, it hasn’t.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh. So you want me to comment on it? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, I want to know how important it is. It’s a point, obviously. Now the President’s going to talk about this in this JCPOA address.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: So clearly this is something that you’re going to show, and then you’re going to say to critics, Look, we’re not abandoning diplomacy. We’re not doing any of this. We’re working with the North Koreans. They’ve shown goodwill. So I want to know, is that really something that you’re going to be pushing on, that this is a sign that America and the Trump administration is not opposed to negotiating with allies � I mean, with adversaries based on —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think our diplomacy in North Korea speaks for itself and answers the question that you’re asking. If you look at the history of negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, it’s been a bottom-up approach to a lot of work at kind of the sub-presidential level to try to get to an outcome that can bring the leaders together. This president is taking the rather bold step of reversing that formula after setting very powerful � setting a very powerful pressure campaign to bring the North Koreans to the negotiating table. But he’s now showing what we’ve said all along: We are committed to a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis.

QUESTION: When you say bold steps, what are you looking for? You’re looking for a release of three American, three Korean American prisoners on that? What kind of bold steps do you want?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think I’ll just leave it as � I mentioned bold steps in contrast to the past decades of incremental, gradual, long-term, eventual disarmament. That formula has failed to secure the peace.

QUESTION: What are you (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: The Secretary can speak � you can ask the Secretary about that on the record.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to comment on that. I’ll leave that to the Secretary.

QUESTION: Okay. What kind of details are you looking for? Because since that speech in January, the Secretary has been here and spoken with the leader himself. What is � what are you looking for now that’s different than what he heard in March when he was here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think the purpose of this meeting is to set the table for a possible meeting between their heads of government. And I wouldn’t speculate beyond that.

QUESTION: How is this different than what he did in March?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, because he’s now the Secretary of State, and that’s an entirely different role. And so I think this gives him an opportunity to have an expanded discussion.

QUESTION: So you expect that the (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The time and the place for the meeting has not been set.

MODERATOR: Well, you can ask the Secretary that, about some of the specifics of it.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s directly opposite of what the President said.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think it’s the � it’s not the direct opposite of it. He’s saying that that’s the opposite of what the President has said. I said that the timing and the place of the meeting has not been set.

QUESTION: He said the date and place have been set.

MODERATOR: What, Matt?

QUESTION: Yeah, Trump said � President —

QUESTION: The President said that the date and the place had been set.

MODERATOR: We’ll double check on that, okay? But you can ask � you can ask the Secretary; I know we’re not going to be announcing anything at this time.

QUESTION: Who’s he going to be meeting with? You’re saying North Korean Government. Do you � what officials? Will he be meeting with Kim Jong-un himself?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I can’t hear you.

QUESTION: Who will � who specifically will he be meeting with, how high up? Will he be meeting with Kim Jong-un?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Don’t have any comment on that.

QUESTION: You just said the government.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, I don’t have � that’s � the government. I don’t have any comment on that yet.

QUESTION: Does that mean you’re going in without knowing who you’re going to be talking to?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not going to get into the preparations for this. The trip kind of speaks for itself.

QUESTION: Can I ask a —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’ll have the full readout when it’s over.

QUESTION: When you talk about bold moves, the one bold move that we’ve got here is the President agreeing to meet with Kim. Is —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That is a bold move.

QUESTION: Do you consider Kim’s agreeing to meet with the President also a bold move, on his part? What other � beyond that boldness, what else are you looking for? I mean —

MODERATOR: Matt, I think the Secretary could best answer that one.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He can answer it.

MODERATOR: Since he’s been with him face to face.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He can answer this question.

QUESTION: No, no, no, but I mean, citing the bold movement, what about what they’re doing � I mean someone argued that when they blew off the Yongbyon cooling tower, that it was a publicity stunt, but that was a bold move, it was something —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That was not a bold move.

QUESTION: Well, it was something that —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That was theatrical, meant for wide mass consumption and to mislead people on the threat of a nuclear program. We are not going to fall for theatrical � theatrical pronouncements on the end of their nuclear program. That is not convincing evidence of dismantling their nuclear program. It wasn’t then and it will not be now.

QUESTION: No, it � you’re absolutely right, it wasn’t, but it was seen as something � you think that the � that that administration fell for � fell for a theatrical trick?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The efforts of the past, however well intentioned, have not addressed the North Korean threat to our security interests.

QUESTION: Right, but so you’re saying —

MODERATOR: All right, [Senior State Department Official]’s going to have to go.

QUESTION: — that the Bush administration got � I’m going to � next time I talk to Chris Hill, I’m going to —

QUESTION: Any deliverables?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Feel free. Feel free.

QUESTION: Can you give us any deliverables?

MODERATOR: You can ask � you can ask the Secretary that. He’ll be back in a few minutes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: All right.

Source: U.S. Department of State