When Donald Trump first shared the news that he accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet in May, many were skeptical if the meeting would even happen. Indeed, it was a twist to U.S.–North Korea tensions that few saw coming. While the unexpected invitation initially seemed like a bright sign between the tense nations, experts were also quick to comment that it was unclear if anything would come from a meeting of the minds.
According to a new CNN report though, officials from both parties have continued to engage in “secret talks." Several anonymous administration officials told CNN, according to the report, that Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and a team have been “working through intelligence back-channels to make preparations for the summit.”
They’re even reportedly debating on a location. Officials reportedly claim that North Koreans want to hold the meeting in Pyongyang. Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, has also reportedly been suggested as a potential meeting spot. Once a location is locked in, a date will reportedly be set.
The report explained:
“Officials said the decision to use the already existing intelligence channel was more a facet of Pompeo's current status as CIA director as he awaits confirmation as secretary of state than a reflection of the content of the discussions. Pompeo is expected to begin the process of Senate confirmation in the next several weeks.
One of Trump's most trusted national security advisers, Pompeo has led efforts to prepare for the summit, which Trump has pressed his aides to organize. If he confirmed, he will assume oversight of the diplomatic preparations.
As recently as this weekend, Trump told associates he was looking forward to the summit, which he agreed to on the spot when presented the invitation from Kim. The timeline, however, remains unknown. Officials said the current target is late May or even June.”
Trump has been sharing sporadic updates during the last couple weeks on Twitter.
However, what many have been concerned about—including Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state who served for President Bill Clinton—is that not enough preparation will go into the meeting. Albright traveled to North Korea in 2000 to meet with Kim Jong Il.
“The Clinton Administration, we had had a number of iterations dealing with the North Koreans in terms of trying to get them to give up their nuclear potential and try to deal with them on what they had issues with, their missiles and missile limits,” Albright shared in a recent interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air." “What happened was that because we had no representation in North Korea, we really relied on our intelligence systems and our friends, and we worked incredibly hard to get ready for it. It took a very long time.”
Albright said she’s “very worried” about a “haphazard” approach to the Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting.
“It’s a combination of lack of preparation, lack of personnel, and a president who is kind of going in a different direction every other day,” she added. “I think it’s a dangerous situation, it’s a dangerous situation if we don’t have diplomatic talks but it’s also a dangerous in terms of the back and forth.”
Alex Bell, the Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, told Salon when news first surfaced about the meeting, that it was wise to remain cautious.
“There’s not a lot of reason to trust the North Koreans based on our previous experiences with them,” said Bell, who was also the Director for Strategic Outreach in the Office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department under the Obama Administration.
She also added that the process to obtaining a denuclearization deal with North Korea would be extremely complicated and tedious.
“This is highly technical if we are actually talking about dismantling the North Korean nuclear program,” Bell added. “It would be the Iran deal times one hundred.”