(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he still believes what he said last July, when he told a security forum that he was sure the North Korean people “would love to see [Kim Jong-un] go.”
Speaking from Saudi Arabia to ABC’s “This Week,” the newly-sworn-in secretary of state discussed his recent meeting with the North Korean dictator. President Trump at Easter sent his then-CIA Director to Pyongyang for talks ahead of summit being planned for the coming weeks.
Towards the end of the interview, Pompeo was asked about a comment he made at the Aspen Security Forum last summer, when the question of “regime change” came up.
“As for the regime,” Pompeo told the event in Colorado, “I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this [nuclear and ballistic missile] system.
“The North Korean people I’m sure are lovely people and would love to see him go as well,” he added. “As you might know, they don’t live a very good life there.”
“Since then, you have been to North Korea, you have met directly with Kim Jong-un,” ABC host Jonathan Karl said. “Do you still think that the people there in North Korea would like to see him go?”
Passing up an opportunity to distance himself from some or all of those words, Pompeo replied, “Jonathan, what I said that evening I still believe. The people of North Korea live in very difficult conditions.”
“I believe that one of the reasons that Kim Jong-un is engaged in this conversation is that the pressure campaign that has been applied by President Trump and, indeed, by the world has put them in an even more tenuous, more difficult position,” he continued.
“And so I am optimistic. We will work hard to see if we can’t find a solution so that the North Korean people can, in fact, live a better life.”
A landmark U.N. commission on inquiry report in 2014 detailed “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” in North Korea.
It described crimes by the Stalinist regime including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
While presenting the report in Geneva, the commission’s chairman, Michael Kirby, said the atrocities committed by the regime in Pyongyang were “without parallel in the modern world.”
In Sunday’s interview, Pompeo stressed that the administration was clear about the goal of talks with North Korea – “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.”
“President Trump has put economic pressure on the North Koreans, and it appears to have given us this opening, this real opportunity for something that would be transformative for the world, if we can achieve it.”
Asked whether the regime would get any incentives or rewards ahead of nuclear dismantling, Pompeo said the administration “will see how the negotiations proceed, but we’re going to do it in a fundamentally different way than the previous efforts to persuade the North Koreans to get rid of their nuclear weapons program. We have our eyes wide open.”