"I regret that we didn't make more progress," Pompeo, who is being studied as a potential White House candidate in 2024, states in an interview Thursday, reports The Hill, quoting the conservative podcast "Ruthless," which talked with the former secretary. "We convinced him not to do more nuclear testing and more long-range missile testing, but we weren't able to get him to give up his nuclear program."
Pompeo, throughout the interview, reflected on his journey to North Korea in April 2018, when photos revealed him shaking hands with Kim. Back then, Pompeo was still the director of the CIA, and that meeting had been viewed as a significant break from U.S. policy, which was to isolate North Korea and withhold international recognition.
Though Pompeo announced his trip had been made to "take the tension level down" after then-President Donald Trump warned there would be "fire and fury" if North Korea threatened the United States.
"We were trying to take the tension level down and create a situation where we could have a rational discussion," Pompeo declared. "The president was prepared to consider whether a summit might be appropriate. It was really quite the, quite the experience."
Trump and Kim met in person twice, though neither trip ended in the denuclearization of North Korea.
"When I became CIA director, [I] had no earthly idea that one day I'd be on a quiet plane traveling in the dark to land at an airstrip in Pyongyang to meet Chairman Kim, who had committed the most horrific crimes against humanity," he told the podcast, while speaking regarding the death of American college student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier, who was jailed in North Korea after stealing a poster, was returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state in June 2017 and died soon thereafter. Trump later came under heat from Warmbier's family after meeting with Kim in 2019 and stating he would take the leader "at his word" that he did not know regarding how the student was treated before his release.
Pompeo stated in the podcast that he'd had a few months to prepare for his original trip to North Korea, "but nothing can quite prepare you for being there."
The former secretary's second trip to North Korea was issued quickly after his confirmation in May 2018, when he went to retrieve three Americans who had been imprisoned and charged with espionage.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang is still maintaining a nuclear weapons capability. It further raised tensions after the election of President Joe Biden by conducting a ballistic missile test last week that the president said violated a United Nations resolution.