Months after President Donald Trump declared that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat to the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the country remains a threat ahead of a planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week.
“Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Pompeo Sunday on “State of the Union.”
“Yes,” Pompeo replied.
“But the President said he doesn’t,” Tapper said.
“That’s not what he said … I know precisely what he said,” Pompeo said.
“He tweeted: ‘There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,’” Tapper said.
“What he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore – this commitment that Chairman Kim made – have substantially taken down the risk to the American people. It’s the mission of the Secretary of State and the President of the United States to keep American people secure. We’re aiming to achieve that,” Pompeo said.
In June, Trump, having just returned to Washington from a historic summit with Kim in Singapore, tweeted, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
In a separate tweet, the President said that North Korea is “no longer” the US’ “biggest and most dangerous problem,” telling Americans and the rest of the world they can “sleep well tonight!”
This week, Trump is set to meet with Kim for a second summit in Vietnam in which he will likely try to convince Kim to abandon his nuclear program, which remains intact, according to a recent confidential UN report.
Pompeo told Tapper that Trump is focused on getting “a demonstrable, verifiable” step toward denuclearization during the summit.
“There are many things he could do to demonstrate his commitment to denuclearization,” Pompeo said.
The secretary of state also said that core sanctions from the U.N. Security Council resolution on North Korea will be removed only after it fully denuclearizes, telling Tapper that the administration’s standard for removing sanctions has always been “full, verified denuclearization.”
A senior administration official told CNN last week that they’re not sure if the country has made the decision to denuclearize, “but the reason why we’re engaged in this is because we believe there’s a possibility that North Korea can make the choice to fully denuclearize.”
“And that’s why the President has assigned such a priority to engaging with them,” the official added.
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One of the highlights of President Donald Trump's first two years in office was his historic Singapore summit with the North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Though it has yes to lead to concrete results, it did bring the two sides to the negotiating table in an historic capacity. They're set to meet again in Hanoi on February 28.
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Months of planning and negotiating took place before the first summit. A low point occurred a year before when North Korea sent home Otto Warmbier, an American college student it had jailed. He never regained consciousness after arriving back in the US, and later died. Trump and Kim traded insults about missile tests. But Trump remained open to a meeting. A high point came when North Korea freed three American prisoners, who Trump met in person when they arrived at Andrews Air Force Base just a month before his first summit with Kim. The prisoners included Tony Kim, left, Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong Chul. Also pictured is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Later that month, Trump briefly canceled the summit in a letter to Kim before putting it back on schedule.
When Trump finally met Kim at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island, Singapore, it was an historic occasion that turned decades of US foreign policy on its head. They two men clearly had a rapport. Trump later said the "fell in love." Trump even showed Kim the presidential limousine known as "the Beast."
In addition to their public appearances and their lunch together, Trump and Kim shared a 38-minute private meeting with just the two men and translators.
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The two men signed an agreement to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." In their second summit, they are expected to build on that agreement.
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Here's the full text of the short agreement they signed. In addition to re-establishing relations between the countries and working toward de-nuclearization on the Korean peninsula, Kim promised to send home the remains of Americans killed in Korea in the 1950s. The US has identified the remains of two of the 55 remains identified as American by the North Koreans.
After signing documents, Trump later held a news conference where CNN's Jim Acosta asked if he trusted Kim. "I do," Trump said. "I think he wants to get it done."
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"Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office," Trump tweeted as he arrived back in Washington. "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." But concrete concessions have been difficult to secure from the North Koreans.
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Trump has stayed positive about the potential for North Korea to de-nuclearize. And he has pressed hard for a second summit as the two men have traded correspondence. In September, as he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York, Trump pulled out a letter from Kim that he called a "beautiful piece of art."
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Richard Roth, Veronica Stracqualursi and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.