The tensions between the US and North Korea have eased considerably after reports emerged that officials from both sides have been holding secret talks. Their dialogue should ultimately lead to a summit that will include a meeting between the US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. This will, undoubtedly, be viewed as a crucial step in easing tensions between the two nations with the hope of avoiding a war.
At the forefront of the United States side are CIA director Mike Pompeo and a special CIA team. They have been working in secret to prepare for the meeting. Reports suggest that intelligence officials from both countries have been in constant communication. Furthermore, they have held a meeting in a third country in an attempt to decide a neutral ground where the summit will be held.
Talks haven’t been affected by a North Korean reluctance to confirm Kim Jong Un’s invitation to meet Donald Trump. This is because officials from Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, have affirmed Trump’s acceptance and Kim’s willingness to discuss denuclearization.
North Korea has expressed a desire for the summit to be held in their capital, Pyongyang. However, US officials have not yet agreed to this location and it is highly unlikely that they will. A few other cities have been touted to hold the summit. Among them, Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Before the summit details are agreed upon, intelligence officials are planning a meeting between Mike Pompeo and the North Korean head of Intelligence. Once this has been organized, the two officials are set to discuss the summit in greater detail.
Pompeo is expected to begin Senate confirmation for his appointment as Secretary of State within the next few weeks. According to officials, this is why the agency opted to use an already established intelligence channel. This is contrary to suggestions that the decision to use such intelligence channels was due to the nature of the negotiations.
Pompeo, as one of Donald Trump’s most trusted security advisers, has been leading efforts to prepare for this summit. It has been reported that Trump has been pushing for officials to hasten preparations for this meeting. If Pompeo becomes Secretary of State, he will assume an oversight role towards the planning of the summit.
Trump has told his officials that he is looking forward to this conference. His willingness to have the summit can also be inferred from his immediate acceptance of Kim’s invitation. The timing for the meeting remains unknown although officials have suggested late May or early June.
However, not everyone is happy with the planning of the proposed summit. Among them is Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Shinzo is expected to present his concerns to Donald Trump when the two meet at the Prime Minister’s Mar-a-Lago estate in a couple of weeks.
Reports of the CIA taking the lead in planning the Trump-Kim negotiations first appeared last month in the New York Times. Officials became more confident of Kim’s invitation to participate in the talks because of the willingness of North Korean officials to participate in the preparation of the summit. Before dialogue between US and North Korean officials picked up the pace, both countries relied on the representations of South Korean officials. This was mainly due to a resumption of harmonious relations between North and South Korea since the Winter Olympic games which led to Kim’s invite to Trump.
The Chinese have also contributed to the talks by providing a briefing to the United States government after a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un. Discussions between State Department officials and North Korea are also ongoing through their mission to the UN.
Preparation for the talks has led to coordination between different organs of Government. The National Security Council has been involved; especially so via its top Asia official, Matthew Pottinger. John Bolton, the incoming National Security adviser is also expected to assume a key role in planning the summit while working alongside Pompeo.
Acting Secretary, Susan Thornton, and Mark Lambert, deputy special representative for North Korean policy are leading efforts at the State Department. The work that they are doing includes identifying potential summit locations, identifying US officials who can facilitate the process and sifting through records of previous negotiations between the two countries. They have also been tasked with maintaining good diplomatic relations with interested parties such as South Korea and Russia.