Minutes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Pyongyang, whereas he was nonetheless on the runway, his North Korean counterpart instantly started dictating the phrases of his assembly with Kim Jong Un. Pompeo’s aircraft had not but shut down its engines.
Pompeo was informed he couldn’t carry his translator or his armed bodyguard into the assembly with the North Korean dictator. Pompeo responded shortly with a good smile.
“Okay, I hope that she may be there,” Pompeo stated, in reference to his translator. “We are going to determine it out and make it work.”
Pompeo, on his fourth journey to the nation after negotiations had stalled since his final journey, did not elevate a robust objection. He additionally, in essence ignored the instructions about leaving his safety element behind when he met with Kim. The calls for got here from Kim Yong Chol, who has been the Pompeo’s major counterpart in these negotiations. He’s the nation’s former cyber chief, and he’s notoriously difficult to take care of in U.S. interactions.
“Large man,” Pompeo stated of his bodyguard. Diffusing the strain within the air, he laughed and overvalued his shoulders, in an effort to mimic the broad physicality of his Secret Service element.
Pompeo’s motorcade then headed for the regime’s Peakhwawon visitor home. On the 20-minute drive, fewer than 5 different vehicles handed the motorcade on the roads. It was a Sunday morning, however the environment nonetheless felt eerily quiet. Just a few males in darkish fits walked alongside the perimeters of the street, in between us and farmland. Their arms swung backwards and forwards, as in the event that they have been on a mission, however that mission was not evident. Ladies in matching sweatshirts coasted by on bikes. Empty baskets have been mounted to their bicycles. Town of Pyognyang was far off on the horizon as we have been pushed to an idyllic setting, nestled right into a woodland alcove rather less than a mile after we handed a monument laden with massive photographs of Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather, the Kumsusan Palace of the Solar.
Later that morning, Pompeo’s motorcade queued as much as head from the visitor home to his assembly with Kim. If Pompeo thought he had succeeded in getting his translator into the assembly throughout that the runway dialog, he was about to be confirmed incorrect. Pompeo hopped in a black stretch Mercedes, alongside U.S. Particular Consultant to North Korea Steve Biegun. Andy Kim, the director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Heart, and the U.S. translator entered the automobile behind him. Then, the U.S. delegation’s actions stalled. The vehicles sat within the driveway for 5 lengthy minutes because the North Koreans scurried across the driveway, whispering to 1 one other. Pompeo’s safety element forged nervous glances at each other. Finally, Pompeo’s automobile door opened for an transient inaudible dialogue between Pompeo and North Korean officers. The U.S. translator was taken out of the automobile behind Pompeo. Lastly, the motorcade rolled away.
Pompeo headed into his assembly Kim Jong Un together with his Secret Service element intact, however with out his translator. Heather Nauert, the State Division spokesperson on the journey, famous that Andy Kim, who’s fluent in Korean, was alongside Pompeo when he met with Kim Jong Un to safe the discharge of three People earlier this 12 months, which Nauert stated was not unusual.
Pompeo might have gone into the room with out his official photographer as a result of he did not need to jeopardize his assembly with Kim. The final time Pompeo visited the nation Kim stood him up. This time, their assembly lasted about two hours. This was progress, when it comes to U.S.-North Korea communications. An administration official on the journey admitted that this go-round was “higher than the final time.” However the identical U.S. official stated that also, “its going to be an extended haul.” That sentiment particularly rang true on Sunday in Pyongyang, as North Koreans nonetheless had some surprises for the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat.
After their assembly, Kim Jong Un determined to hitch Pompeo for lunch, which got here as a shock to each the U.S. delegation and the North Koreans. It meant that Pompeo and Kim Jong Un would spend an unprecedented three-and-a-half hours collectively. Over lunch, I requested a North Korean official whether or not the Kim-Pompeo lunch had been anticipated. “Positively not,” was the reply.
Pompeo and his group meandered across the hallways of the Pyongyang Peakhwawon visitor home, and waited for Kim to reach for lunch. Andy Kim, crossing his arms in entrance of him, appeared comfy with the North Koreans, leaning in shut to listen to what his counterparts needed to say, and shook his head downwards to snigger incessantly. Pompeo, too, appeared free, giving one North Korean official a lighthearted slap on the again, just like the affectionate faucet he offers to U.S. authorities officers when he leaves a rustic.
The visitor home, extravagantly embellished, is located in a picturesque woods-like space. Its partitions are coated in grandiose panorama work with gold frames, and its flooring are lined with thick purple rugs. Newspaper stands show shiny magazines depicting locations like North Korea’s “Munsu Water Park,” the place North Koreans are photographed cheerfully enjoying in matching bathing fits and jogging on treadmills in naked toes. A newspaper on the highest of 1 stands was dated September 29, greater than every week earlier than our go to, and the entrance web page had a narrative on iron and coal. Not one of the tales have been concerning the U.S.
Pompeo was moved to the entrance door, the place he stood to welcome Kim Jong Un. Pompeo clasped his palms in entrance of his physique, ready patiently, with a flat expression on his face.
“It is such as you are standing on the altar,” Nauert noticed. Pompeo circled to acknowledge her remark. He smiled however did not reply. The remark mirrored the ability dynamic of the second, that the North Koreans held all the management through the go to. Now Pompeo was standing, ready expectantly, with no concept when Kim would possibly materialize.
“It is good to see you once more,” Pompeo stated when Kim Jong Un lastly got here via the mahogany doorways, his broad black pants swinging backwards and forwards. They held eye contact briefly and smiled, conscious of the cameras skilled on them.
“So is every thing okay?” Kim requested Pompeo, main him down the hallway in the direction of their lunch.
“All the things is nice,” Pompeo replied. “All the things is nice. I’m very a lot trying ahead to our time collectively too.”
As a result of this was Pompeo’s fourth go to to Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un requested whether or not he felt issues have been extra acquainted now and prompt that he should not be feeling the “first unusual emotions” that he had when he initially got here to the nation. Pompeo agreed.
As they took their seats, Kim Jong Un gleefully pointed on the cameras within the room. Two of them — mine and the official U.S. photographer — have been the identical cameras that he wouldn’t permit into his earlier assembly with Pompeo. The secretary of state informed Kim that the cameras have been for him. Kim Jong Un chuckled. The U.S. translator additionally took a seat subsequent to Pompeo, the identical translator that Kim Jong Un wouldn’t permit into the earlier assembly.
“As I stated earlier than, it is a very good day that guarantees an excellent future,” Kim Jong Un stated to Pompeo, “for each nations.”
“We had a fantastic, nice go to this morning. Thanks for internet hosting. President Trump sends his, his regards,” Pompeo informed Kim. “And we had a really profitable morning so thanks and I’m trying ahead to our time right here at lunch as nicely.”
The U.S. cameras have been taken out of the room. The North Korean cameras stayed inside.
Pompeo dined with Andy Kim, Steve Biegun and his translator whereas the remainder of the U.S. delegation, a handful of secret service brokers and North Koreans ate a equally massive and elaborate meal. The menu included foie gras, boiling scorching conch soup — served in a conch shell — steak, grilled pine mushrooms and chocolate cake.
North Korean official Kim Tune Hye gave a toast to the ladies on the desk. Pak Chol then to the lads and to US-NK relations.
“To household and good relationship,” stated Pak Chol, the vice chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee stated, in reference to U.S. and North Korean relations.
I sat between two North Korean officers and requested them concerning the subsequent Trump—Kim summit. They stated it could be nice to have it in Pyongyang. They requested me about whether or not Mr. Trump’s social gathering would win the midterm elections and about courting within the U.S. Once I requested concerning the “gangster” characterization of Pompeo after his final go to, a North Korean official stated the continuing sanctions had impressed these remarks. One official, via a translator, described Trump as “beneficiant” and “a pacesetter.” Kim Tune Hye asserted that the 2 nations “would not be right here with out Trump.”
After about an hour and a half, Kim Jong Un left earlier than we had time to catch him departing. Earlier than departing the visitor home I requested Pompeo whether or not any progress had been made. Nauert, standing subsequent to us, interjected that he needed to present a readout to “the boss” first. “You’re making an attempt actually laborious,” Pompeo stated to me. There was nothing in his physique language to counsel how the assembly had gone both.
Then, Pompeo was instructed to attend slightly longer earlier than going to the airport. Kim Jong Un’s sister got here speeding over with a white envelope, with a thumb drive of photographs documenting Pompeo’s go to with Kim Jong Un. It was the assembly that the official U.S. photographer and I have been barred from getting into.
So, after about six hours on the bottom, Pompeo boarded his aircraft. A gaggle of North Korean building staff watched the U.S. plane put together to take off. Probably the most trendy instrument they held was a shovel. There have been no machines in sight. Because the aircraft taxied, fleet of bikes could possibly be seen sitting alongside some farmland within the distance. When the aircraft tipped into the sky, as if on cue, the bikes sped off in numerous instructions. They made the land seem slightly bit extra busy than it had regarded once we arrived.
When Pompeo landed in Seoul, whereas the U.S. group was engaged on a press release concerning the journey, Mr. Trump tweeted concerning the assembly.
“@SecPompeo had an excellent assembly with Chairman Kim in the present day in Pyongyang,” he wrote. “Progress made on Singapore Summit Agreements! I sit up for seeing Chairman Kim once more, within the close to future.”
The photographs in Mr. Trump’s tweet had been taken by the North Koreans.