Hawkish U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was not in the Oval Office last Friday when President Trump met with Kim Jong Un's North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol, and one reason is that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told Trump it would be "counterproductive" to let Bolton attend the meeting, CNN reports, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Pompeo, who did attend the Kim meeting, and Bolton did not know each other well before Trump appointed Bolton to lead the National Security Council, and their already strained relationship combusted after Bolton went on TV last month and suggested North Korea might follow the grisly "Libya model," two sources tell CNN. One official told CNN that Pompeo believes Bolton is "trying to advance his own agenda." Pompeo angrily confronted Bolton after the Libya comment, and "there has been considerable tension between them ever since," a person familiar with the West Wing confrontation said. A National Security Council spokesman said "any rumor of a confrontation between Ambassador Bolton and Secretary Pompeo is categorically false."
"Trump has given his secretary of state, whom he views as intelligent and charismatic, considerable leeway on North Korea — including following his lead and keeping Bolton at arm's length from the negotiations," CNN reports. That said, Trump is known for changing his mind on advisers pretty quickly. Peter Weber
Ahead of his June 12 summit with President Trump in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has replaced his top three military leaders, a senior U.S. official told Reuters Sunday.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency first reported that the leaders were removed, and it's believed that Kim has installed younger people in those roles. Experts say that Kim is likely trying to tighten his control over the Korean People's Army; Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at CNA, told Reuters that Kim's putting in people who are "loyal to Kim Jong Un and no one else."
The United States wants North Korea to completely end its nuclear weapons program, and some analysts speculate that factions of the North Korean military do not like how Kim is dealing with the U.S. and South Korea. Kim could also be preparing for more economic aid to come into the country, and he'll want the military to participate in infrastructure projects. Catherine Garcia
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's closest aides, had dinner together in New York on Wednesday night, ahead of meetings on Thursday.
Kim Yong Chol is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the United States in nearly two decades, CBS News reports. He's also a former military intelligence chief believed to be behind attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. Kim and Pompeo are trying to revive the June 12 summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, which Trump abruptly canceled last week after North Korea said it had no plans to give up its nuclear weapons. Since then, Trump has hinted the meeting could still take place.
South Korean media is speculating that Kim Yong Chol may have brought a personal letter from Kim Jong Un with him, and might try to get to Washington to meet with Trump. Kim Yong Chol is thought to have been the mastermind of the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures, CBS News reports, and he has been sanctioned by the U.S. and South Korea. Catherine Garcia
CIA report: North Korea is not planning to give up its nukes, but knows another way to Trump's heart
A new CIA report says that North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons easily or quickly, but it is considering opening a Western hamburger joint in Pyongyang as a show of goodwill, three U.S. national security officials told NBC News.
"Everyone knows they are not going to denuclearize," one official said. The report was circulated earlier this month, just a few days before President Trump announced he was canceling his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The report did not say what burger franchise might pop up in Pyongyang, but it called the idea a nod to Trump's love of fast food restaurants.
Per the report, it's believed Kim may offer limited American investment in the country, NBC News reports, and the U.S. and South Korea will likely promise agricultural development and food delivery, possibly through the United Nations. Because North Korea is so reclusive and the U.S. doesn't have many intelligence sources there, the analysis is based on information at low or medium confidence. "This is essentially some very smart analysts offering their very best guesses," one intelligence official told NBC News. Catherine Garcia
In response to President Trump canceling the historic summit scheduled for next month between the U.S. and North Korea, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan declared his country is ready to meet with the U.S. "at any time."
In a statement published by North Korean state media on Friday morning, Kim said Trump's decision to pull out of the meeting wasn't "the world's desire," and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "had focused every effort" on the summit. He also said the U.S. and North Korea must meet in order to take care of the "grave hostilities" between the countries. Catherine Garcia
North Korea is again threatening to not attend a summit next month with President Trump, with the country's vice minister of foreign affairs blasting Vice President Mike Pence for his "ignorant" comments comparing North Korea to Libya.
North Korea's state news agency KCNA on Thursday quoted Choe Son Hui as saying North Korea will "neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us. Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States."
Pence made his remarks during an interview with Fox News on Monday, saying it would be a "mistake" for North Korea to "play" Trump, and Washington could return to the "Libya model." In 2004, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made a deal with the U.S. to give up his nuclear weapons, and in 2011, after being forced out of power, he was captured and brutally killed. Catherine Garcia
U.S. officials are planning on President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holding their historic meeting in Singapore, two people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Trump said on Wednesday that he will reveal when and where the summit is taking place in three days. He also said the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas is out, and admitted it is possible that "everything can be scuttled." Catherine Garcia
The release of three Americans being held in North Korea is "imminent," a U.S. official with knowledge of the matter told CNN on Wednesday.
The North Korean government decided to let the Americans go two months ago, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho brought up their release while visiting Sweden in March, CNN reports. On Wednesday night, President Trump tweeted that "the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!"
Only one of the Americans, Kim Dong Chul, has been in custody longer than Trump has been president; he was arrested in 2015, accused of spying on North Korea on behalf of South Korea. The others, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, were both employees of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and were arrested last spring. They have been accused of carrying out "hostile acts" against the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Catherine Garcia