‘I find that question insulting and ridiculous’: Pompeo gets testy with reporter who asks how the US will make sure North Korea denuclearizes

kim jong un mike pompeo north korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang, North Korea on May 9, 2018.

North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency/Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took exception Wednesday to a reporter’s ask for more details on the verification process surrounding the the denuclearization process involving North Korea.

The reporter questioned why the document signed by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not more specific in terms of calling for a verification process.

Pompeo was asked if North Korea’s denuclearization would be “verifiable and irreversible” and why this phrase was not included in the agreement Trump and Kim signed. The secretary of state has used this language to describe what the US would require in terms of denuclearization in the past.

“We are committed to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Pompeo tweeted in late May.


But on Wednesday, Pompeo called it an issue of “semantics.”

“You’re just – because ‘complete’ encompasses verifiable and irreversible. It just – I suppose we – you could argue semantics, but let me assure you that it’s in the document,” Pompeo said, according to a State Department transcript of the exchange.

The reporter then asked for further details on how the verification process would occur, which seemed to spark Pompeo’s ire.

‘I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous’

Here is an excerpt of the exchange:

QUESTION: And the President said it will be verified.


SECRETARY POMPEO: Of course it will.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit more about —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Of course it will. I mean —

QUESTION:— what is — what discussed about how?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Just so you know, you could ask me this — I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous. I just have to be honest with you. It’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this.


The reporter continued to ask for more specifics, prompting Pompeo to call the line of questioning was “silly.”

“It’s unhelpful for your readers, your listeners, for the world,” Pompeo added. “It’s — because it doesn’t remotely reflect the American position or the understandings that the North Koreans have either.”

The document signed by Trump and Kim states: “Reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Many critics of the agreement believe it is too vaguely worded and say it gives North Korea significant wiggle room in terms of what it’s pledged to do. North Korea has made similar agreements with the US in the past but ultimately did not live up to its obligations.

Despite such concerns, Pompeo on Wednesday said he’s “confident” Pyongyang understands there will be “in-depth verification.”


Pompeo’s apparent issues with the media’s approach to the aftermath of Trump’s summit with Kim seem to be shared by the president.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Trump tweeted his own quibbles with the coverage of the summit.

“So funny to watch the Fake News, especially NBC and CNN,” he said. “They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have ‘begged’ for this deal-looked like war would break out. Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!”

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