The Saga of Pompeo

CIA Director Mike Pompeo reportedly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un even as he faces tough opposition in the Senate as he awaits to be confirmed as secretary of state.

The move flies in the face of protocol and tradition, as Pompeo did not meet with the North Korean leader in a diplomatic capacity, but rather in his capacity as an advisor to the president as well as the chief of a spy agency.

Since decades of tradition and protocol haven’t garnered any results with the rogue nation, some have said that the surprising decision to give Pompeo first access to Kim Jong-un in a non-formal setting may actually be a smart move.

After all, it’s not as though we’ve been able to prevent them from building more nuclear weapons with our current tactics.

Going by the president’s comments, it appears that Pompeo’s sole objective was not to broker any deals or agreements, but rather to work on building a relationship with Kim Jong-un.

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Others have also argued that because Pompeo was already in communication with North Korean intelligence officers, his meeting with their leader is actually just an extension of his current responsibilities and activities.

“[Pompeo] has been dealing with North Korean representatives through a channel that runs between the C.I.A. and its North Korean counterpart, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, according to other officials. And he has been in close touch with the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon, who American officials said brokered Mr. Kim’s invitation to Mr. Trump,” – The New York Times

All of Pompeo’s relationship-building may have been for naught, however, as the president said yesterday that he would be more than willing to abandon the talks if they are not progressing as well as he’d like.

“Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue there should be no reward, maximum pressure should be maintained,” – The 45th President of the U.S.

While the U.S. is facing its greatest opportunity to deescalate relations with North Korea in the last 60 years, it is still unclear whether our current administration is up to the task.

Pompeo currently faces opposition from every single Senate Democrat, as well as from Republican Senator Rand Paul, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“My biggest problem with your nomination is I don’t think it reflects the millions of people who voted for President Trump who actually voted for him because they thought he’d be different,” – Senator Rand Paul

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could bring Pompeo’s nomination to the floor without the committee’s endorsement, but he would be the first secretary of state nominee not to receive it since 1925.

Should Pompeo assume the position of secretary of state without the committee’s endorsement, it may negatively impact international perceptions regarding his ability to carry out his responsibilities unobstructed.


For an excellent discussion on Pompeo’s meeting with Kim Jong-un and its implications, listen to Pod Save The World’s interview with foreign policy expert Kelly Magsamen, hosted by Tommy Vietor.

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