UPDATE : 2018.9.25 TUE 12:51
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Trump: Pompeo met N. Korean leader, formed 'good relationship'

U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that his secretary of state-designate met with North Korea's leader, saying the two formed a "good relationship."

"Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week," he tweeted. "Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed."

The Washington Post reported earlier that Pompeo, the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, flew to North Korea over the Easter weekend to meet with Kim and discuss preparations for a Trump-Kim meeting.

This graphic image shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

A White House official clarified to Yonhap that the trip took place over Easter weekend -- March 31-April 1 -- not last week.

Trump agreed to the summit last month after South Korean officials conveyed the North Korean leader's wish to meet with him as soon as possible, as well as his commitment to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The summit is expected to take place in May or early June.

"Details of Summit are being worked out now," Trump said in the tweet. "Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!"

The U.S. wants to see a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. But skeptics have questioned whether the North will abandon its nuclear weapons program, which it sees as key to the survival of its regime.

At his confirmation hearing last week, Pompeo made clear the U.S. would not reward North Korea until the regime fully dismantles its nuclear arsenal.

"It is the intention of the president and the administration not to do that this time, to make sure that before we provide rewards, we get the outcome permanently, irreversibly," he said.

Past negotiations and agreements with Pyongyang led to a temporary freeze of its nuclear facilities in exchange for economic aid. But the deals ultimately collapsed as the regime was found to be running clandestine nuclear programs.

Pompeo also expressed confidence that the administration will come up with conditions for a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue.

"No one is under any illusions we'll reach a comprehensive agreement through the president's meeting," he said at the Senate hearing. "But to set up the conditions acceptable to each side, for the two leaders who will ultimately make the decision about whether such an agreement can be achieved and then set in place, I'm optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately."

While his mission is to stop the North from achieving the capability to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons, it is not his aim to push for a regime change, Pompeo added.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote on the nomination next week amid opposition from Democrats and Republican Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky.

"I think he's going to come through," Trump said later Wednesday during a working lunch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "I think Mike Pompeo will go down as one of the great secretary of states. And, by the way, he just left North Korea. Had a great meeting with Kim Jong-un, and got along with him really well, really great."

The Koreas have meanwhile been preparing for their own summit on the inter-Korean border next week.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is to meet with Kim on April 27 to talk about denuclearization and bringing permanent peace to the peninsula.

The two sides will discuss a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, according to South Korean officials. The conflict ended with merely a truce, leaving the Koreas still technically at war.

Trump said Tuesday the Koreas have his "blessing" for a peace deal. (yonhap)

Won Hwi  edt@koreapost.com

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