New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is “an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean peninsula” with President Donald Trump planning to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“I underscore the word “opportunity;” we are in the beginning stages of the work and the outcome is certainly yet unknown,” Pompeo said after his ceremonial swearing in at the State Department Wednesday. Trump was in attendance.
Pompeo said the Trump administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past, adding, “Our eyes are wide open.” He said “We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program and to do so without delay.”
Trump made his first visit to the State Department Wednesday for the ceremonial swearing-in.
“Mike is a true American patriot,” Trump said as he praised Pompeo. “I have no doubt that you will make America proud as our nation’s chief diplomat.”
Pompeo has vowed to bring back the “swagger” to the State Department.
“The United States diplomatic corps needs to be in every corner, every stretch of the world, executing missions on behalf of this country, and it is my humble, noble undertaking to help you achieve that,” said Pompeo Tuesday while speaking to personnel who gathered as he arrived for his first full day at the State Department.
Thomas Hill, of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said “I would say he needs to go further than restore, but I would say he needs to modernize the department, while also fighting the interagency battles that will inevitably come about. As well as just dealing with the problems of normal, international diplomacy: Iran, North Korea, Russia, etc.”
The former CIA director takes the helm of the State Department after Trump’s decision to fire then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson in March, hours after Tillerson had returned from a trip to Africa.
Unlike with Tillerson, Trump is said to have a close working relationship with Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo is someone who I think has the close ear of the president,” said Nile Gardiner of the conservative-leaning Washington-based research institution, The Heritage Foundation.
Pompeo took selfies with several State Department employees Tuesday, vowing to reach out to as many staff members as possible.
“I’ll spend as little time on the 7th floor” and meet people in “many parts of this organization,” he said.
A U.S. foreign service officer, who did not want to be named, told VOA he hopes Pompeo’s experiences in Congress, the U.S. military, and the intelligence community “highlight that the United States faces real adversaries abroad, and that the [State] Department’s career employees are resources – not the enemy.”
Tillerson was under fire at the State Department for leaving many senior vacancies unfilled and proposing dramatic budget cuts, lowering the morale of the diplomatic workforce.
Pompeo, who was confirmed last week, boarded a plane just hours after being sworn in Thursday, traveling to the NATO foreign ministerial meeting in Brussels. He continued on to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan.
“I do think he is going to be a far bigger presence on the world stage than Rex Tillerson was,” said The Heritage Foundation’s Gardiner.
And while Tillerson brought just one reporter on his first foreign trip to Asia, Pompeo left Washington with six journalists on his plane last week. Pompeo picked up two more reporters as he continued his overseas trip to the Middle East, before returning to Washington on Monday.
“I think I have the record for the longest trip on the first day of work,” Pompeo joked on Tuesday. (VOA)