Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a briefing with reporters as President Trump prepares for crucial trips to the Group of Seven Summit in Canada and North Korea meeting in Singapore.
SANDERS: Thanks for being patient with us.
Obviously there's a great deal of interest on (sic) the upcoming summit with the North Koreans. We have Secretary Pompeo here, who will make some brief opening remarks and then take questions on that topic.
As you know, the president has already done a press conference today, so keep questions limited to that. And we'll be around the rest of the day to answer other news of the day. Thanks.
With that, Mr. Secretary?
POMPEO: Thanks, Sarah.
POMPEO: Yes, I'm going to take a couple of questions. Couple.
Good afternoon. It's great to be joining you all here today.
Early in his presidency, President Trump made a commitment to address the threat of North Korea, which has been a threat to our nation for far too long.
President Trump has been and continues to be committed to ridding the United States and the world of threats posed by North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. These programs threaten our homeland, our allies and partners, and the broader non-proliferation regime.
North Korea's past activities also make clear that it is proliferation to other actors that creates a risk in addition to the primary risks. It is -- has supporting infrastructure that is also of concern.
In early 2017, the Trump administration decided on a policy we have referred to as the maximum pressure campaign. The campaign enacted the strongest economic and diplomatic sanctions against North Korea in history. The goal was to set the conditions for the DPRK to make a strategic decision to denuclearize as the best means by which it will achieve its own security. POMPEO: American leadership rallied the international community to send a strong message to Chairman Kim Jong-un and the world that we would not stand for the DPRK's illegal weapons programs.
The president's bold decision to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un grew from this incredibly strong and targeted campaign. The president's policy directly led to the historic summit that will take place on June 12 in Singapore.
Back on March 8, Chairman Kim Jong-un expressed his desire to meet with President Trump as soon as possible. And then, on May 9, I met with Chairman Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, and explained America's expectations for denuclearization. At the time, we also secured the release of three Americans: Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song. We view this as a sign of goodwill from Chairman Kim Jong-un.
The United States and North Korea have been holding direct talks in preparation for a summit, and North Korea has confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearize. A comprehensive, whole-of-government effort in support of President Trump's upcoming summit is underway. White House- and State Department-led advance teams are finalizing logistical preparations, and will remain in place in Singapore until the summit begins. The president continues to follow every development closely, and is getting daily briefings from his National Security Team.
The fact that our two leaders are coming to the table shows that the two sides are very serious. The diplomatic model used to date is different from past efforts. Our efforts give us hope that we can find real success where past efforts have fallen short.
President Trump is hopeful, but he's also going into the summit with his eyes wide open. We've seen how many inadequate agreements have been struck in the past, and you can be sure that President Trump will not stand for a bad deal. The United States has been clear time and time again: the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that we will find acceptable.
The president recognizes that North Korea has great potential, and he looks forward to a day when sanctions on the DPRK can begin to be removed. However, that cannot happen until the DPRK completely and verifiably eliminates its weapons of mass destruction programs.
President Trump and Chairman Kim will certainly also discuss security assurances for the DPRK, establishing a peace regime, and improving relations between our two countries. Until we achieve our goals, the measures that the world, alongside the United States, has put on the regime will remain. In the event diplomacy does not move in the right direction, these measures will increase. Throughout the entire process, the United States has been unified with -- with Japan and South Korea in response to the threats from North Korea.
I will be traveling with my -- excuse me. I will be traveling to meet with my Japanese and South Korean counterparts after the summit to continue to coordinate with them. I will also stop in Beijing following the Singapore summit. I will provide them with an update, and underscore the importance of fully implementing all sanctions that are imposed on North Korea.
President Trump recognizes North Korea's desire for security, and is prepared to ensure a DPRK free of its weapons of mass destruction is also a secure North Korea. President Trump has made it clear that if Kim Jong-un denuclearizes, there is a brighter path for North Korea and its people. We envision a strong, connected, secure and prosperous North Korea -- Korea that is integrated into the community of nations. POMPEO: We think that the people of the United States and North Korea can create a future defined by friendship and collaboration, and not by mistrust and fear. We believe the Chairman Kim Jong-un shares this positive vision for the future, and we are committed to find a path forward, and we assume and hope that that belief is sincere. We're looking forward to being in Singapore in just a few days.
SANDERS: As a reminder, we'll take just a few questions from the secretary. (Inaudible).
POMPEO: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Thank you. What progress have you made in narrowing the gap in your understanding of denuclearization and North Korea's definition of denuclearization? Has there been progress in bringing that division closer together?
QUESTION: Can you describe that a little bit?
SANDERS: That was quick. (Inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah. Thank you, Secretary Pompeo. As you mentioned in your remarks, North Korea in the past has reneged on prior agreements that it's made with the U.S. government. So I have two questions for you. The first question has to do with your experience meeting with Kim Jong-un. Do you trust him? And my second question has to do with the negotiations that are upcoming with North Korea.
Who in your opinion has the upper hand in the negotiations, and why?
POMPEO: So, with respect to your first question, I've had the chance to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un twice now. I can tell you he is very capable of articulating the things that he is prepared to do, present clearly the challenges that we all have to overcome. That's why the two leaders are meeting. It's the opportunity to lay those out clearly between the two leaders so that we can see if we can find a path forward, together, that achieves the outcomes that both countries want.
Your second question?
QUESTION: Who has the upper hand in the negotiations?
POMPEO: I -- we don't think about it in terms of who has the upper hand. We know this has been a long, intractable challenge. It's gone on for decades. The president has said repeatedly previous administrations weren't prepared to do what we've done already. It's not about who has the upper hand. It's about trying to find a way where the two sides can come to an understanding where we can get concrete steps, not just words, that resolve this challenge.
QUESTION: Secretary, first of all, the president said that he doesn't believe he needs to prepare very much ahead of the summit. Do you think that's a prudent approach? And also I wanted to get your reaction to Rudy Giuliani's comments that Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for the summit to go back on, whether you think he should be weighing in on these international affairs and whether you agree with that assessment.
POMPEO: So, with respect to your second question, I took him as being in a small room and not being serious about the comments. I think it was a bit in jest and -- and...
QUESTION: Do you think he could jeopardize the summit, or?
POMPEO: We -- we're moving forward. We're focused on the important things. I know Rudy -- Rudy doesn't speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation and this set of issues. With -- with respect to your first question, progress -- we're making progress inch by inch and we're going to travel there. This is different. The approach that President Trump is taking is fundamentally different. In the past, there'd been months and months of detailed negotiations and they got nowhere.
This has already driven us to a place we've not been able to achieve before.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. The president said today that if the Singapore meeting goes well, he'd like to bring Kim Jong-un to Washington, possibly, for further meetings. Has Kim Jong-un invited the president to come to North Korea? POMPEO: So I don't want to talk to you about the conversations that the -- that have been had between the North Korean side and the United States. I'll leave that for the president to talk to. But I do want to get to -- and this comes back to the other question that you asked about the president's preparation. So in my previous role, and I've said this before, you can look it up, there were few days that I left the Oval office after having briefed the president that we didn't talk about North Korea.
So over months and months, days and days, President Trump has been receiving briefings on this issue about the military aspects of it, the commercial economic aspects of it, the history of the relationship. And in the past few months, there have been nearly-daily briefings -- including today -- where we have been providing the president all the information that he needs. And I am -- I am very confident, the president will be fully prepared when he meets with his North Korean counterpart.
QUESTION: Just having met the man twice, now, what can you tell us about what opinions you've formed of Kim Jong Un as a person?
POMPEO: Yeah. So I haven't spent that much time with him. What I -- what I have said, publicly, is, he has indicated to me, personally, that he is prepared to denuclearize. That he understands that the current model doesn't work. That he is prepared to denuclearize.
And then, two, he understands that we can't do it the way we've done it before. That this has to be big and bold, and we have to agree to making major changes. We can't step through this over years, but rather need to acknowledge it will take some amount of time, that this doesn't happen instantaneously.
But that the model for succeeding -- security assurance and political normalization and denuclearization -- completely, verifiably and irreversibly -- for that to take place, we -- we've got to make -- we've got to make bold decisions and I am -- I am hopeful that Chairman Kim Jong Un is prepared to make that decision for his country, a big shift in his strategic understanding of his security.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) So you said that you -- the president is prepared to talk about security guarantees for North Korea. We have seen, in this administration, that you can -- that when new administrations come in, they can undo things that prior administrations have done.
How can President Trump guarantee long-term security for -- for North Korea, and for Kim in particular?
POMPEO: Look, we -- we're going to have to do things that convince Chairman Kim that that's the case. Right? That's what -- that's what we'll have to do.
So let me give you an example. We are hopeful that we will put ourselves in a position where we can do something the previous administration didn't do, right? They signed a flimsy piece of paper.
And we're hoping to submit a document that Congress would also have a say in it, that would give currency and strength and elongation to the process.
So that when administrations do change, as they inevitably do -- and this one will, six and a half years from now -- when -- when that takes place, that Chairman Kim will have comfort that American policy will continue to -- down the same path -- on the course that we hope we're able to set in Singapore.
SANDERS: We'll take one last question.
SANDERS: Zeke (ph)?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. (inaudible) first, a follow-up (inaudible) on your (inaudible) to Asia. When you say "a document that Congress would sign off on," are you referring to a treaty?
And, second, at the top of your remarks you said that the talks (inaudible) threatened (ph) (inaudible) allies from North Korea's WMD and (inaudible) ballistic missiles. Is that a condition for the president in any -- in any negotiation agreement with -- with Chairman Kim, that his ballistic missile program and chemical weapons also be part of that?
And third, finally, can you discuss the format of the meeting between the president and Chairman Kim? What will it look like? Who will be there?
POMPEO: So -- so I'll leave to the White House, to talk about the format of the meetings when the time is right.
With respect to proliferation risk, it's very real. There is a history of that, with respect to North Korea and some of our other difficult challenges in the world today. They are connected.
The reason you want complete, verifiable and irreversible is precisely that. To the extent there remain stockpiles, knowledge bases, warehouses, systems, infrastructure, fissile material production facilities -- I could go on.
To the extent those remain, the risk of proliferation continues and it's our aim, through the CBID process -- and providing the security assurances that Chairman Kim will want, that we can greatly reduce the risk. That proliferation never happens as a result of North Korean actions.
SANDERS: Thanks so much.
QUESTION: Sarah? One more (inaudible), Sarah?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you explain the -- the president's shift of when he's gone from talking about a -- defining success for this meeting as denuclearization of the peninsula to now, talking about the need for more meetings? Can you explain what happened there, and -- and -- and why the shift, and can you also describe your disagreements over North Korea internally with -- with the national security adviser?
POMPEO: Yeah, with respect to the second one, I -- I've read a little bit about this, and I love good fiction as next as the -- as much as the next person. But it is without foundation, so much so that, you know, I'll -- I'll -- I'll be polite, since I'm a diplomat now, so suffice to say, those articles are unfounded, and -- and a complete joke.
QUESTION: Surely there have -- must have been some...
POMPEO: Oh, no, sure, Ambassador Bolton and I will disagree with great -- great consistency over time, I'm confident, right? We're two individuals. We're each going to present our views. I -- I'm confident that will -- that will happen on issues from how long this press conference ought to go, to issues that really matter to the world. So it's absolutely the case that Ambassador Bolton and I won't always agree. I -- I think the president demands that we each give them our own views, so...
Yeah, so -- so you had a first -- your first question. I'll try to answer it. I'll try to answer your first question, too. I -- I don't see the shift as -- as disjunctive as you do. The president's always understood that this was a process. It's been very clear that there would -- there would always take a great deal of work to do this, so I -- I -- I think you're -- you can interpret how you will, but I think your characterization of that is -- is also, doesn't reflect the president's understanding. I think his understanding about this process has been pretty consistent since I've been working with him, now almost a year and a half ago.