WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo blasted a top Democrat senator during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday for suggesting a lack of preparation led to the Trump administration’s canceling the Kim Jong-un summit, noting that North Korea failed to hold up its end of the bargain in planning for the event.
During the hearing, Pompeo clashed with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the panel, over the lawmaker’s suggestion that the president rushed into agreeing to meet with the North Korean dictator without preparing.
Pompeo told the Democrat lawmaker:
I think the American team is fully prepared. I think we’re rocking. I think we’re ready. I think we’re prepared for this meeting. I think President Trump is prepared for this meeting. We were fully, fully engaged over the weeks to prepare for this meeting. So I disagree with your assessment that the Americans are not ready.
Menendez interrupted Pompeo in an attempt to walk back his comments about the United States being ill-prepared, saying, “When I said, ‘Not ready,’ I’m talking about, you know, we needed to test all of the propositions and lay out all of the elements of what was ultimately to be decided in a way to find out whether North Koreans were really [telling the truth].”
“Yes, sir. That’s been done three times before in American history, and Kim Jong-un today possesses the most robust nuclear program he has ever had,” the secretary replied.
“And as a result of him canceling the summit, he still possesses them,” Menendez shot back.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump sent a letter to Kim Jong-un announcing he had decided to cancel their June 12 meeting, citing the dictator’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” as the reason.
In response to the president’s decision, Sen. Menendez declared in his opening remarks delivered during the panel hearing:
While we applaud robust diplomatic efforts to try to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, many of us were deeply concerned that the lack of deep preparation that is necessary before such a summit is even agreed to was not taking place, and now we see the consequences of that.
Menendez also took shots at the president’s decision in a statement, asserting the move weakens America’s standing in the world.
He wrote, “The art of diplomacy is much harder than the art of the deal. … Understanding the nature of clear-eyed diplomacy and deep preparations are paramount before agreeing to enter into such a high-wire act with no safety net.” He added, “In hastily agreeing to a summit and then being the one to walk away, President Trump must understand he has now weakened and further isolated the United States.”
Pompeo argued that it was North Korea that failed to prepare for the Trump-Kim June 12 summit, suggesting that was one of the reasons President Trump canceled.
The secretary told lawmakers:
I don’t believe … that we’re in the position to believe that there could be a successful outcome [from a Trump-Kim meeting]. I think that’s what the president communicated pretty clearly in his letter. I can add to that — that over the past many days, we have endeavored to do what chairman Kim and I had agreed, [which] 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 told lawmakers the Trump administration remains “optimistic” that it can ultimately convince Kim to take significant steps towards the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in exchange for sanctions relief.
On Wednesday, the secretary signaled that President Trump was prepared to “walk away” from a bad deal with North Korea.