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U.S. can still pursue talks with North Korea over denuclearization, Pompeo says

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on April 25. Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday the Trump administration still believes there is a diplomatic “path forward” to getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, despite its leader, Kim Jong Un overseeing a round of missile tests this weekend.

Pompeo, making the rounds on three Sunday political talk shows, insisted the United States and North Korea would proceed with denuclearization talks in the wake of Kim’s first major missile test in over a year. Pompeo also defended President Donald Trump’s recent phone conversation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and reiterated that “no option is off the table” when it comes to military intervention in conflict-stricken Venezuela.

“We still believe there's a path forward,” Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week” when asked about the status of stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea.

On Saturday, reports emerged that North Korea had fired a series of short-range missiles off its east coast. On Sunday, images surfaced from North Korean state media of Kim overseeing the missile testing.

The missile testing comes months after Trump and Kim met for their second summit in Hanoi. The February meeting was cut short after  they failed to reach an agreement, but Trump, in tweets, including one on Saturday, has maintained that a “Deal will happen!”

Pompeo, appearing on Fox News Sunday, downplayed the level of missile testing that occurred, saying the United States had “high confidence that they were not intermediate-range missiles, that they were not long-range missiles or intercontinental missiles.”

"They landed in the water east of North Korea and didn't present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan," Pompeo told ABC “This Week” guest host Jon Karl. "We know that they were relatively short range. And beyond that, we know that they weren't intercontinental ballistic missiles either."

Pompeo, asked about Trump’s call last week with Putin, defended the administration’s response to Russian election interference, detailed at length in special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.

“We take seriously the threat of election interference from every country, Russia included,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday.”

On Friday, Trump told reporters that he and Putin discussed the conclusion of Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling, but Trump said he never raised concerns to Putin about possible intrusions in the 2020 election.

Mueller’s report said the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 presidential election in “sweeping and systemic fashion,” but investigators did not establish evidence of coordination between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign.

Pompeo told Fox News: “The Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence agencies are all working to not only ensure that 2018 was successful … and that 2020 will continue to be successful.”

Pompeo, who claimed last week that Russia had  persuaded Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro not to step down amid growing civil unrest, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” the United States continues to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Guaidó, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself the nation's interim president in January, arguing that Maduro's re-election was "illegitimate'  because of widespread fraud documented by international election observers. Guaidóo has also railed against Maduro's efforts to jail and exile opposition candidates during a time of widespread food and supply shortages that have driven masses of Venezuelans to flee the country.

“The president's been very clear, we want the Cubans out. There are Iranians on the ground there. We want the Russians … we want everyone out so that the Venezuelan people can get the democracy they deserve. That includes Mr. Maduro leaving,” Pompeo said.

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