On Tuesday, Donald Trump, who once threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and tweeted at his secretary of state to quit “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” gave North and South Korea his “blessing” to discuss a possible peace treaty and boasted that the United States and North Korea were talking “at very high levels.” Hours later, we found out how high: The Washington Post reported that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who once spoke ominously of “separating” the Kim regime from its nuclear weapons, had secretly traveled to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un ahead of Trump’s planned summit with Kim later this spring.
The developments underscored just how abruptly the Trump administration has pivoted from a policy focused mainly on applying “maximum pressure” on North Korea to one of pursuing maximum engagement. But they also showed how, when it comes to negotiations over the North Korean nuclear program, Trump seems to want to go big or go home. “There’s a great chance to solve a world problem” that “should have been taken care of years ago, decades ago” but now “must be taken care of one way or the other,” the president said on Tuesday, while meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago. “We’ll either have a very good meeting or we won’t have a good meeting. And maybe we won’t even have a meeting at all depending on what’s going in.”