May 24, 2018, 5:13 PM ET

Pompeo blames North Korea for summit cancellation, but still hopeful it will happen

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The Trump administration is blaming North Korea for President Donald Trump canceling his summit with Kim Jong Un, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the country's recent rhetoric showed they were unprepared to meet.

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"We did not walk away from this," Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday. "I regret the statements that the North Koreans have made over the past few days and the fact that we've not been able to conduct the preparation between our two teams that would be necessary to have a chance for a successful summit."

But Democrats weren't buying it, arguing the administration had mishandled the opportunity, blaming tough talk from top officials for sending the wrong message to Pyongyang.

"The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal," said the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

President Trump released a letter this morning, which the State Department had transmitted to North Korea and Kim Jong Un, saying he was canceling their meeting scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. He cited "the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement" and said the cancellation was "for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world."

North Korea had released a statement Thursday that bashed Vice President Mike Pence for "ignorant and stupid" comments, in which he cited the so-called "Libya model" for North Korea's denuclearization and said the U.S. still has the military option for solving the North Korean crisis on the table.

In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for normalized relations with the U.S., but to many, including North Korea, the model includes Gaddafi's overthrow, aided by western airstrikes, and his violent death seven years later.

"We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us. Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States," said Choe Son-hui, a vice foreign minister, in a statement on North Koran state television KCNA.

Trump seemed to respond directly to that threat of war in his letter, writing, "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used."

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reads President Donald Trumps letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before Pompeo testifies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reads President Donald Trump's letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before Pompeo testifies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.

But Pompeo, who read the letter at the top of the hearing, said plans for the summit had begun to fall apart over the few days, with the administration getting "a lot of dial tones" when reaching out to North Korea. That includes a planning meeting in Singapore last week where the North Koreans did not show up, according to a senior White House official.

"Over the past many days we have endeavored to do what Chairman Kim and I had agreed, was to put teams, preparation teams together to begin to work to prepare for the summit, and we have received no response to our inquiries from them," Pompeo said.

Democrats blamed a lack of understanding of North Korea and multiple references by Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton to the "Libya model."

"The 'Libya model' as Kim Jong Un has been interpreting it is where leader surrenders their nuclear capability only to then be overthrown and killed," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "Why would you think that there would be any other interpretation than what happened to Gaddafi at the end of his denuclearization, which is that he wound up dead? Why think that that would not, in fact, elicit hostility from a negotiating partner only three weeks from sitting down across the table?"

PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands at the Workers Party of Korea headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 8, 2018.KCNA via AFP/Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands at the Workers' Party of Korea headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 8, 2018.

Pompeo rejected that argument, saying in his conversations with Kim, he made clear the U.S. would provide security assurances long after they struck a deal. Pompeo has met Kim twice, as CIA Director and Secretary of State – the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so, meeting for more than three hours in total.

Pompeo also denied that the administration did not know what it was doing, saying, "The American team is fully prepared. I think we are rockin'. I think we are ready. I think we are prepared for this meeting."

With the summit scrapped, for now, the international sanctions regime will remain in place, with the goal of getting the two leaders to sit down at some point, according to Pompeo, who said there were no signs China was violating the United Nations sanctions in any "serious" way.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during one of the more serious moments as he testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill May 24, 2018.Michael Reynolds/EPA via Shutterstock
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during one of the more serious moments as he testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill May 24, 2018.

But those partners in the sanctions campaign were surprised by Trump's letter and sudden cancellation, and there are questions now about whether it will crack the global pressure on North Korea. Pompeo declined to say whether the administration gave South Korea or others a heads-up.

At the White House Thursday, Trump threatened military action, saying the Pentagon "is ready if necessary," although he declined to say if the breakdown of the summit raises the risk of war.

But Pompeo said he was "still optimistic" there could be a diplomatic solution: "The diplomacy this administration has engaged in has gotten us this far. I am confident that we will move forward in a way that will continue to give us the opportunity to achieve this," he said.

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  • IEMERALD

    who cancelled this meet. jung or spanky.? pompeo seems in a muddle as ever

  • gypsy

    Let's blame NK for a rather idiotic comment by the Vice President. sheesh........

  • adamrussell

    Wait, didnt trump just say he walked away? Which is it?

  • John Cram

    Did Trump really think calling him "little rocket man" was just going to be something sweep under the table? Gezz how dumb is Trump and the people that "believe" in him? Come on already, stop wasting your time.

  • Weazerdogg

    Another lie, North Korea announced they'll still meet, any time, any place. Well, you know not any place, but I'm sure they're just quoting a cliche. This is ridiculous. Even taking Trumph out of the equation (and I really wish some Patriot would), what is wrong with the rest of these people? Being a filthy rich white male isn't enough, you have to blow up your country too because people won't play the way you want to ... about EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TexasVulcan

    Pompeo certainly cannot contradict his boss. But how long will it take for Trump to turn on Pompeo?

  • TexasVulcan

    I do not recall Kim publicly canceling anything.

  • BD70

    Sure, blame NK and completely ignore the fact that a few high level people in this administration couldn't keep their mouths shut. Antagonizing NK isn't really a good idea when trying to work diplomacy. Reminds me of a bunch of school yard bullies with their backup gang.

  • Philip Dutton

    The WORST President the US people have EVER voted into power. I understand them wanting change but Donald Trump!!!!?

  • george

    Unfortunately someone intelligent needs to take the higher ground here. NK have shown they are willing to make concessions to reach a deal and with the USA backing out they have shown they do not have the belief or drive to find a solution. Unqualified people reach unqualified results.

  • mclnVA

    That's great, it starts with an earthquake
    Birds and snakes, and aeroplanes
    And Lenny Bruce is not afraid

  • MS2789

    The entire thing smells of a childish, egomaniac seeking an excuse to get out of something he never planned on doing in the first place. By now, no one should trust anything Trump says
    is going to happen.

  • wilmers13

    The issue with the Libyan model is not really the death of one man. It is what Libya became afterwards.

    I had never been confident about these negotiations because I could not see common interests between South Korea, North Korea, US, and China.

  • adamrussell

    Maybe Kim read the Art of the Deal?
    Always be ready to walk away.

  • DeWitt Vargas

    Orange dotard is a global embarrassment, and just got played by a 2-bit dictator.

  • TheoreticallyScottCA

    Don't blame North Korea for Trump's insecure need to impress himself with childish acts, meant to signal to himself his control and dominancy, and yet do not impress the majority of other people who see his insecurity for what it is.

    The most embarrassing part of all this, is that North Korea is behaving more maturely than the Populist baby occupying the White house is..

  • kritikosman

    Well there's a shocker!

  • Bill Paish

    He called Pence stupid, well ? Pence has done so much public boot licking , he is an embarrassment.

  • Simplythefactsmam

    Trump has no negotiation skills. He is used to people doing what he tells them. He wouldn't have the faintest idea what to do face to face with anyone that might confront him. He's as thin skinned as a rotting peach.

  • brian nrndss

    one should look at the positive.............and know there is still hope...............

  • Nearl45 61

    I’ve got an order in for that new commemorative coin.

    You know, the one with Trump on one side and Mueller on the other. When you spin it, you can see Comey’s face smiling.

  • UnaMas85

    Yes, it was NK's fault. All we did was offer peace, and economical relief in exchange for them to dismantle their nuclear arsenal. Oh, and that we're going to assassinate Kim in a few years. No idea why they did accept that offer.

  • Omar Majiet

    The Roach has no shame.

  • mik8888

    I bet Pompeo really thought that would fly, heh heh...

    Never mind that the world knows Kim only talked about cancelling, but Trump actually did it...

  • Andrew

    Both crooked donald and Kim are victims of having micro-pen. They could use an occasion to complain to each other for their unfortunate DNA related condition. Perhaps, after they show each other their 'little' junk in private, they might rise above those 'little things', and do a deal to outlaw all men 'bigger' than them. The UN could vote on it.

  • 40acre

    It's a sad day for the US when a psychotic murderer like Kim appears to be a more competent statesman than the president of the US.

  • Andrew

    Pompeo is full of crooked donald BS. Everyone on earth hates crooked donald and his lap-dog Bolton. These game-show host polticians, crooked donald and snake Bolton, are the worst humans on the planet.

  • Nearl45 61

    Plumplio is kind of like our own Kim Jung Fat.

    Just don’t put him on his back, he won’t be able to get back up.

    The Korean summit promise was just to get this joker confirmed....no other reason.

  • 40acre

    -----"We did not walk away from this," Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday.-----

    Don't be ridiculous, Pompeo.....This was an obvious "Nyah nyah, I quit before you did" taunt by the childish leader of what used to be US foreign policy. The manchild in the Whitehouse isn't even very good at being a bully.

  • Treblig56

    And Trump was the one tagging Kim as fat?

  • Treblig56

    Still does not seem to work on either of them 'flabby ones'

  • Treblig56

    Pompeo in on Diet Coke now. Now we know why Trump likes him

  • Valen

    Let me get this right, please. Trump cancels the summit with North Korea, that we shouldn't have been doing in the first place. Oh, but it is all North Korea's fault. Can anyone say naïve?

  • helicohunter

    This failed for two reasons. First, the DOTUS and his administration can't even spell diplomacy and second, Kim already got most of what he wanted. He wanted legitimacy- which he got from even the suggestion of a face to face meeting without preconditions. It'll be a cold day in hell before he gives up nukes, but if he could have gotten serious concessions in return for giving up testing, he would have done it.

  • Ctrygrl

    Seriously, even Pompeo must realize Bolton and Pence pretty much torpedoed the summit with their talk of the "Libya model", whether planned or not this culminated in the death of the dictator and the regime. Kim wants no part of this. One has to wonder why Pence made a point of this, Bolton is just an idiot and expected, but what was going on with Pence?

  • pbgd

    It is obvious that the Chinese interfered. When Kim returned from his first visit to Beijing, the peace effort was on. But when he returned from his second visit, it was suddenly off again. So the Chinese must have gotten cold feet when they noticed the enthusiasm of the Korean people.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Most of us who have been involved in high level meetings, or heck, just have common sense, knew the meeting was doomed as soon as Trump announced it and it was obvious that not ten minutes had been spent planning and coordinating it.

    There is a reason why previous presidents didn't meet with NK. They did the planning and saw that NK was not serious and wouldn't negotiate for their nukes. Trump was like a 5 year old telling the world "mommy, mommy. look what I did today. I'm the first and best POTUS".

  • John

    USA and North Korea were being conciliatory towards each other, working towards peace talks, then buffoons like Bolton and Pence make serious threats teat NK will be treated like Libya.

    Then after Trump calls off the talks, Pompeo makes the ridiculous claim that it was North Korea who called off the talks.

    Then the head buffoon says "look - I wrote this all by myself"

  • pbgd

    It is now obvious that China is calling the shots. When Kim returned from his train visit to Beijing, the peace offensive was suddenly on. And when he returned from his second visit by air, the peace offensive was off again. Trump had nothing to do with it. The Chinese just changed their mind when they noticed the Korean enthusiasm.

  • snake

    I suspect Pompeo wrote Trump's summit cancellation letter because it's obvious Trump doesn't have the ability to compose such a statement.

  • fmd160

    "The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal," said the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

    Kudos to the Senator. Nice to see one Senator or Congressman place blame where blame belongs. I would think that there are many others of the same opinion, but are too afraid or cowed by the current Administration to make a statement..

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    I'm no longer surprised by the bumbling Trump. The only thing I'm surprised about is that he was able to make it for 71 years with all his handicaps.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Pompeo: "the fact that we've not been able to conduct the preparation between our two teams that would be necessary to have a chance for a successful summit."

    Hey Pompeo, the reason you couldn't conduct the preparation was because your idiot boss said there was going to be a meeting and scheduled it without having a clue about what was needed to ensure it was a success. You take care of it BEFORE you schedule it. My God, another Amateur.

    Why is it not a surprise that the Trump dysfunctional administration blames everyone else for anything that goes wrong and still has an unblemished record for never making a mistake. America looks like pathetic, bumbling fools thanks to you yokels.

  • wiseone

    To understand the end of the Summit we have to start at the beginning. Was it wise to have joint U S and S K military exercises while preparing for the meeting? Did Bolton and Pence speak about the 'Libya Model' at the wrong time? Kim postured himself as a good faith dealer by releasing the Americans and making compromises with S K. The stakes are high. either side cannot afford a nuclear war. My greatest fear is this administration's lies, and corrupt nature will lead us into a nuclear war. I hope I am wrong.

  • ogrot

    God this just gets worse. Now South Korea has come out as surprised because apparently no one consulted them about Trump's new strategy. This is a debacle. How can we be making these kinds of decisions without even having a casual conversation with our allies about it. This is pathetic. Any reporting about this should have circus music as the background.

  • Richard

    Even tho Kim is a brutal dictator, which Trump will become.....this is on Trump's incompetent Cabinet.....Bolton saying it'll be like Libya, and Pence calling for regime change.....idiots, I'd walk away too with pompous morons like them. ALL Trump wanted was the photo op, and being the main news story, and that Nobel Peace award. They are not about to give up ALL their nukes now......but it coulda been no more new nukes....but NO, Trump and his band of idiots had to screw it up., and now an American city will probably be turned to ash.

  • FfloydZzepp

    Honorable Kim made Turnip write the letter ditching the talks...got it pompie....

  • B-K KnightRider

    So it is NK's fault that Trump reacted like a petulant child because someone in NK said something mean; like how Trump says stupid and childish mean nonsense almost every day? Oh the irony.

  • FfloydZzepp

    VP Political Dummy, Has Been Bolton and Mike PompousAss.....geez Republicans are a bucket of lickspittle losers...

  • Billie Bob Norton

    Hey mad, aren't you afraid that the "deep state" might be lookin' in on you right now as you type your dribble?

  • Lee Thompson

    Well, Mr. Pompeo, Pence and Bolton didn't help one bit by talking about the Libya model. What a couple of dolts.