Pompeo says nuclear talks with North Korea will be "bumpy"

By Olivia Gazis

/ CBS News

Pompeo on what comes next for North Korea

The full "Intelligence Matters" interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be available May 1, on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher. "Intelligence Matters" celebrates its first anniversary as a CBS News production since its relaunch last May. Excerpts of the interview will air on "Red and Blue" on CBSN.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that ongoing nuclear talks with North Korea would be "bumpy" and "challenging" but expressed confidence about ultimately brokering a path to full denuclearization. He also dismissed a recent personal attack from a senior North Korean official — who last week called for a more "mature" interlocutor than Pompeo — as coming from a "mid-level guy."

"We've been down this road a number of times with the North Koreans," Pompeo said, referring to the talks. The U.S. had made missteps in the past when, Pompeo said, "we handed them a bunch of money in exchange for too little." It's not an error the Trump administration would repeat, he said, adding, "I think the North Koreans now see that pretty clearly."

The secretary spoke at the State Department with CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morell for a forthcoming episode of Morell's podcast, "Intelligence Matters," which marks its first-year anniversary as a production of CBS News next week.

Pompeo waved off the suggestion that Kim was engaging in provocative behavior by observing a new weapons test, which Kim did last week, and meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which he is scheduled to do Thursday. According to a South Korean lawmaker, Kim also reportedly removed Pompeo's erstwhile counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, as punishment for the failed February summit in Hanoi.

"It's gonna be bumpy. It's gonna be challenging," Pompeo told Morell. "I hope that we get several more chances to have serious conversations about how we can move this process forward."

Pompeo also said the conversations in Vietnam were more productive than has come to public light.

"There was lots of nuance that hasn't frankly been reported a whole lot, because we certainly aren't going to talk about it," he said.

"But there was a lot more nuance to the conversation than just, 'Hey, they had a position, we had a position, we walked away,'" he added. "We hope that we can build on that."

The secretary of state told Morell he "absolutely" still sees a path to full denuclearization, provided Kim makes good on statements he has personally made to President Trump.

"It solely turns on whether Chairman Kim makes the fundamental strategic decision, the one that he's told me half a dozen times he has made, one he's told the president a handful of times that he has made," Pompeo said. "[T]here's not just a military strategic decision but a political strategic decision that we think Chairman Kim is prepared to make. Only time will tell for sure."

He said Mr. Trump had not assigned a timeline to the duration of the talks, and said they would continue as long as "good faith negotiations" and "real conversations" were taking place.

"And if that breaks down, if that doesn't happen, then we'll have to, obviously, change paths," Pompeo said. "But our mission set's very clear."

First published on April 24, 2019 / 5:00 PM

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