Pompeo pushes for June 12 date amid Trump-Kim summit uncertainty
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was confident that U.S.-North Korea summit is "still scheduled for June 12" despite the president casting doubt on the date on Tuesday. He testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on strengthening U.S. diplomacy, but was questions focused primarily on the administration's work on achieving denuclearization in the Korean peninsula as well as next steps for the U.S. after formally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
In prepared remarks, Pompeo cited the administration's "maximum pressure campaign" of diplomatic and economic sanctions as laying the groundwork for the June 12th summit. He vowed, however, that the U.S. posture towards North Korea "will not change until we see credible steps taken toward the complete, verifiable, and irreversible de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
"We are clear-eyed about the regime's history. It's time to solve this once and for all. A bad deal is not an option. The American people are counting on us to get this right. If the right deal is not on the table, we will respectfully walk away," Pompeo added.
His comments come as Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday, "We will know next week about Singapore."
Highlights from the hearing:
Pompeo told House members that the U.S.-North Korea summit is "still scheduled for June 12" despite the president casting doubt on the date on Tuesday. "We have an opportunity. Our eyes are wide open to history but we are hopeful," Pompeo said. He added that the final decision on if the summit indeed takes place will be up to Kim Jong Un. "He asked for the meeting, President Trump agreed," said Pompeo. He aded that he was "very hopeful that meeting will take place."
Pompeo was confident that "we have the timing and the leaders right for this meeting to be historically successful."
The secretary says so far, U.S. demand have been unambiguous and maintains that the administration has made "zero concessions" to Kim. Pompeo reiterated that in his talks with the dictator so far, Kim made clear that it was important to him that when the time came, he would receive economic assistance in the form of private sector business and "American know-how." Pompeo added that Kim "wanted security assurances from the world."
As for details on the summit's framework and participants, Pompeo was tight-lipped. He said Mr. Trump was in charge of the negotiations but the team would be led up by himself. The secretary told lawmakers that Kim and the North Korean regime has viewed the use and development of nuclear weapons as "their security blanket."
"We have this chance to stand that on its head," said Pompeo, saying that the U.S. aims to communicate that nuclear weapons present the "greatest risk" to the regime and the people of North Korea.
Pompeo said there is a "great deal more work do" with regards to safeguarding the U.S. election process but said that he's "greatly proud of the work the this administration has done to counter Russia." He said that the Trump administration has been "lightyears better" than the previous administration but noted the U.S. has not been able to achieve "effective deterrence" to prevent future attacks.
"We will not tolerate Russian interference in the 2018 elections," he told lawmakers. "We will take appropriate countermeasures to continued Russian efforts."
China health concerns
Amid reports that the State Department has urged U.S. citizens in China to report any "symptoms or medical problems" they notice while in the country, Pompeo told lawmakers that "the medical indications are very similar—and entirely consistent with—the medical indications that've taken place to Americans working in Cuba." Multiple U.S. and Canadian nationals suffered from what the U.S. government called "health attacks" in Havana.
In Guangzhou, employees have reportedly experienced "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure."
"We have medical teams that are moving to be on the ground there," Pompeo added.
During a particularly contentious exchange with Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-New York, Pompeo was adamant that diplomatic security would not be impacted by the amount of dollars spent by State. Meeks reminded Pompeo of a heated exchange he engaged in with previous Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her testimony in the aftermath of the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, September 2012.
"Under the Obama Administration, over $3 billion went to diplomatic security, but once President Trump came in, I see it went to down $2.1 billion...and down to $1.6 billion," Rep. Meeks said "So where is the concern now about diplomatic security?" he asked Pompeo
"I take a backseat to no one with respect to caring about protecting the people," Pompeo relied. Rep Meeks then reorted, "Nor did Hillary Clinton take a back seat to no one."
In opening remarks, Pompeo reiterated details of the administration's exit plan from the Iran nuclear deal which he unveiled earlier this week.
"We will apply unprecedented financial pressure, coordinate with our DOD colleagues on deterrence efforts, support the Iranian people, and hold out the prospect of a new deal for Iran – it simply needs to change its behavior. We seek to work with as many partners, friends, and allies as possible to achieve the common objective of stopping all of Iran's nuclear and non-nuclear threats," said Pompeo.
He told lawmakers that the demands outlined in his plan were were not "fantasy," and that he's just asking Iran to "behave like a normal country." The secretary added that State will come back to Congress to seek further authority in the administration's plan.
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