The day after Donald Trump responded to North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test by taking to Twitter and assuring North Korean strongman leader Kim Jong-un that “I am with him,” the Trump-appointed United States secretary of state responded to reports of political executions in North Korea in stunningly blasé fashion in a Sunday morning televised interview.
Trump and Kim held their second summit in February, meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, supposedly to negotiate an agreement — or at least a joint declaration, according to CNN — on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament. But the summit fell apart after Trump and Kim could not agree on lifting economic sanctions against North Korea, or how far Kim was willing to go in shedding his nuclear arsenal.
Kim was reportedly so upset at the embarrassing failure of the summit that his North Korean government put four top foreign ministry officials in front of a firing squad and executed them, according to a report appearing in the major South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. The report of the executions had not been independently verified, the South Korean paper noted.
But asked on the ABC News program This Week on Sunday, Pompeo had little reaction to the reports of executions stemming from the failed summit, saying only, “I don’t have anything to add to that,” as seen in the video excerpt, below.
"I don't have anything to add to that," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells @jonkarl when asked if the U.S. can verify reports that some of the people who were part of the North Korean negotiating team in Hanoi were executed https://t.co/P6iz1j1VA4 pic.twitter.com/olNG5HZmpq— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 5, 2019
“It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations, my counterpart will be someone else,” Pompeo went on to acknowledge, when pressed on the question by ABC News interviewer Jonathan Karl.
After the first Trump-Kim summit in June of 2018, the two leaders signed a declaration supposedly committing North Korea to “denuclearization,” as NPR reported.
After the 2018 summit, a seemingly giddy Trump took to Twitter to declare that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat,” and “everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office.”
But reports soon began to emerge that North Korea was continuing development on its nuclear and missile programs anyway — and then on Friday, May 3, North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile in the direction of Japan, as CNN reported. The CNN report also note that the launch came about two weeks after a summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim.
Trump, however appeared unconcerned by the missile launch, tweeting on Saturday, “Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me.”
Experts on North Korea’s nuclear program, however, were more worried. Vipin Narang, an MIT professor who is an authority on North Korea and its nuclear development efforts, wrote on Twitter that Kim was attempting to “push the line” with Trump, “gradually seeing how much Trump will turn a blind eye to. Not good.”