WASHINGTON: Kim Jong-un is not a weak leader and he has shown tremendous capacity to lead North Korea, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the only top US official to have met the reclusive leader twice in recent weeks.
Pompeo's statement came after US President Donald Trump cancelled his proposed summit meeting with Kim on June 12 in Singapore.
Trump described the cancellation of the summit as "a tremendous setback" for North Korea and warned that the US military is ready to act should Pyongyang take any "foolish and reckless" action.
Pompeo first travelled to North Korea in his capacity as the CIA Director last month and again this month as the Secretary of State.
Both the meetings, he said, laid the ground work for a meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
"I spoke in English. There was a translator. But our team confirmed that the translator said what I said.
"I had two meetings, maybe three hours plus, total, enough that I understood him to have understood what I was saying," the top US diplomat told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.
"When I heard back from him (Kim), there was little doubt in my mind that he understood the scope of what we were asking for, the nature of what would have to take place, the verification that we would need to undertake in order to be comfortable that we could begin to deliver the assurances that he, in return, asked for," Pompeo said when Senators asked him if he was able to convey the message to Kim properly.
"I think we were having a real conversation where there was real understanding between the two of us. It's what caused me to recommend to the president that I thought the time would, in fact, permit us to have a real opportunity to do something historic," Pompeo said.
He said that he was still optimistic that the US will reach the point.
"I know the president is (optimistic) as well," he said.
Responding to a question, he said he does not believe that Kim is a weak leader.
"Is it your opinion that this decision by Kim Jong-un is a result of a weak leader who lacks the internal support to go forward with a meeting on denuclearisation? Or was this just poor negotiating strategies by Kim Jong-un?" Senator Robert Menendez asked.
"I don't think it's the former. I don't think it's a weak leader. In fact, he has demonstrated an enormous capacity to lead his country and his team," Pompeo said soon after President Trump cancelled his meeting with Kim.
Trump attributed this to the changing behaviour of Kim and North Korea.
"I don't really know that I want to speculate as to why it is they (North Koreans) took the actions, because I don't think we know. What I am hopeful is that we can continue to have conversations and put this back on track, so that we can get to a place where we can achieve the outcome.
"We talk a lot about summits and deals and the like. It's not about the deal. It's about the outcome. It's about achieving this permanent, physical change and transformation that will have opportunity to change the world," Pompeo said.
A corollary to that is a fundamental change in North Korea that would lead North Korea to have this opportunity for prosperity and all the things that their neighbours to the south have, he said.
"There will have to be a deal to get us to that point. But we shouldn't spend all our time thinking about the deal, without focusing on here's what this needs to look like in order to what president has said, to keep Americans safe from the threat that North Korea presents today," Pompeo added.
In April, Trump had stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Kim in an unprecedented sit-down.
Trump and Kim had previously traded insults and threats.
The summit would have been the first ever meeting between a sitting US president and North Korean leader.
Trump's announcement coincided with North Korea's move to demolish its underground nuclear test site deep in the mountains of the sparsely populated northeast.