Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un was a surprise to the Pentagon and State Department

The Trump-Kim meeting was a surprise in Japan, and everywhere else
(Image credit: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump accepting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation to meet face to face is unprecedented — no sitting U.S. president has met with the leader of North Korea — and the big announcement was delivered in an unusual way: in the White House driveway, in the dark, by South Korean national security official Chung Eui-yong. It's a surprising turn of events, given that Trump and Kim have spent a year trading personal insults and threats of annihilation, but few people were probably more surprised than officials at the Defense Department and the State Department.

"Several Pentagon officials said shortly before the announcement that they had no knowledge of what the South Koreans planned to announce," The Associated Press reports. "And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, traveling in Africa, just hours before said the U.S. was 'a long ways' from direct talks." It's unclear if "the conditions are right to even begin thinking about negotiations," Tillerson added, and the State Department had said earlier in the day that U.S. diplomats were ready to engage with North Korea in a preliminary round of talks to test Pyongyang's sincerity. Now they have until May to prepare for a summit between Trump and Kim.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.