Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on meeting Kim Jong Un: 'I was there on a mission'

In an ABC News exclusive, Mike Pompeo discusses North Korea on "This Week" in his first interview since being confirmed as secretary of state.
11:30 | 04/29/18

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Transcript for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on meeting Kim Jong Un: 'I was there on a mission'
and unrestrained. Capping off a turbulent week of nomination drama. Legal twists. And foreign dignitaries at the white house. But it was a meeting between north and South Korea's leaders that captured the world's attention. North Korea's Kim Jong-un and South Korea's president moon taking the first steps on what may be an historic journey. Kim shaking hands with the south Korean leader. Crossing into south Korean soil. The two of them crossing back to North Korea hand in hand. A few small steps. A giant symbolic gesture. Both leaders pledged to formally end the Korean war. Sealing their joint declaration with a hug. And appearing together in front of the press. President trump hailed the meeting as a major breakthrough that he made possible. He's also touting Mike Pompeo's secret meeting with Kim Jong-un. The white house released these photos of that meeting to pave the way for the upcoming summit between Kim and president trump. There are a lot of questions about that meeting. The biggest? Will it lead to the kind of break through that has eluded president trump's predecessors? Late yesterday, we talked to Mike Pompeo in his first interview as secretary of state. He had just arrived in Saudi Arabia. Secretary Pompeo. Thank you for joining us on your very first trip as secretary of state. Thank you, Jonathan. Great to be with you. I want to start with the images of Kim Jong-un stepping into South Korea. The first time we have ever seen a north Korean leader do that. How big was that moment? Yeah, Jonathan, I think it's a big deal. It's important. Every step along the way matters. The objective remains the same. Complete. Complete, vary fiable, irreversible denuclearization. That's been the goal. President trump put economic pressure on the north Koreans. And it appears to have given us this opening, this real opportunity for something that would the be transformative for the world if we could achieve it. Let's look at the remarkable images of your meeting with Kim Jong-un. The two of you standing there, side by side. What was going through your mind at that moment? I was on a mission, Jonathan. I had a mission to begin to lay the groundwork for president trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un. We wanted to make sure we understood that the north Koreans, Kim Jong-un, was prepared to talk about the things that mattered the most. To give us a grounds, a basis to have that meeting between the president and the chairman. I was very focused on that in that moment. The president said that the meeting, the meeting between the two of you was entirely unplanned and lasted for more than an hour. How did it come about? Well, I was there on a mission. I was aiming to achieve the goals the president set forward to me. It became clear I would get the chance to meet with Kim Jong-un to discuss some of the details. Most importantly, to take a read on whether there was an opportunity here for our two countries to achieve this. When I came back I reported to the president the discussion. It was a productive one. There remains great deal of work to do. But we at least have an opportunity here to do something that is incredibly important. As the CIA director, you obviously spent a lot of time in the CIA. Spent years, resources, on trying to read the north Korean leadership. Trying to understand Kim Jong-un. What did you come away learning about him in that meeting? Well, anytime you get a chance to meet face to face with someone, you get a better read about what they're thinking. Whether they're really prepared to do something that is historic and different and -- we have got a long history in negotiating with North Korea. Repeatedly, they have taken actions only to find that those promises proved false or unworthy, or they were uncapable of achieving them. My goal was to try to identify if there was a real opportunity there. I believe there is. Who knows how the ultimate discussions will go. There's a lot of work let to do. I'm hopeful that the conditions set by president trump give us this chance. The president said that you have a good relationship. With Kim Jong-un. After this. A good relationship. Do you? We had a good conversation. We talked about serious matters. He was very well-prepared. I hope I matched that. We had a -- extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries. I had a clear mission statement from president trump. When I left there, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I have described it today. He agreed he was prepared to talk about that and lay out a map to help us achieve the objective. Only time will tell if we can get that done. You went to set up the summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and the president or to take steps towards doing that. Looking at this, what is your assessment? What is the best plausible outcome that we can see after this first meeting of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un? Well, we hope a number of things could be achieved. I talked about getting the release of the American detainees. And then we talked a great deal about what it might look like. Hat this complete, vary fiable, irreversible mechanism would look like. When the two leaders are in a room together, they can set the course. They can chart the outcome. They can direct the teams to deliver that outcome. And the best outcome would be that. The two agree they're going to get there and charter their teams to go make that happen. I want to play for you something that the national security adviser, John Bolton said, shortly before coming into the administration, right after this planned meeting was announced. This is what he said about negotiating with the north Koreans. There's an all-purpose joke here. Question, how do you know that the north Korean regime is lying? Answer, their lips are moving. That was obviously before John Bolton became the national security adviser. He's now working on this meeting. Given all the broken promises we have seen on the nuclear issue under president Clinton, bush, president Obama. Three different north Korean leaders now. Can you really trust anything that comes out of a meeting with Kim Jong-un? Jonathan, this administration has its eyes wide open. We know the history. We know the risks. We're going to be very different. We're going to negotiate in a different way than has been done before. We're going to require the steps. We use the word irreversible with great intention. We're going to require the steps that demonstrate that denuclearization is going to be achieved. We're not going take promises. We're not going to take words. We're going to look for actions and deeds. Until such time, we'll keep the pressure campaign in place until we achieve that. That's different. And so, in each case, both countries have to do more than words. We'll have to deliver an outcome that is the one that Kim Jong-un and I had the chance to talk about at the direction of the president. So you looked into his eyes. Spent more than an hour with him. Said it was a good conversation. The president said it was a good relationship that was developed. The president has called him a madman. He's not alone in that. How do you -- how to you build a relationship with someone who is seen as a madman? You know, I'm not one to do much about navel-gazing or eye-staring. I'm looking for action. We have built a coalition. We have come together to put pressure on Kim Jong-un. President trump and the pressureare the reasons Kim Jong-un wants this meeting. We'll be looking to achieve our outcome between the president and Kim Jong-un. Do you think he's really had a change of heart on this? I mean, if you look at Kim Jong-un, this is somebody who assassinated his uncle right after coming into power. Poisoned his half-brother. Did more to advance north Korea's nuclear facilities, missile capabilities than his father. More to advance the military than his grandfather. Do you think he's ready to give up the pride of that country right now, the nuclear program? Kim Jong-un will have to make a decision. A big decision. Does he want the pressure campaign to continue? Does he want president trump to continue to place them in the location that he finds himself today? Or is he looking for something big and bold and different? Something that hasn't happened before? I don't know which way it will go. As the president as said, only time will tell. We have a mission set. An obligation to engage in diplomatic discourse. To try and find a peaceful solution, so Americans are not held at risk by Kim Jong-un and his nuclear arsenal. That's the mission. That's the goal. Only time will tell if we can achieve it. You have been clear. This is complete, irreversible dismantling of the nuclear programs. Get rid of the nukes get rid of the capabilities? Yes, sir. Is he going to get anything in return before he does that? Any lifting, any easing of sanctions? Any reward given before the total dismantling of the nuclear program? Jonathan, the administration has been very clear. We'll see how the negotiations proceed. We're going to do it in a fundamentally different way than the previous efforts to get them to get rid of their nuclear weapons program. We have our eyes wide open, Jonathan. But nothing before it's done? No partial steps? Jonathan, we have our eyes wide open. You were CIA director for 15 months. You had a sense. You have seen all the intelligence on this. We have seen the assessments. Are you confident that we truly know the extent of the north Korean nuclear program? Do we know where his bombs are? Do we know where all his nuclear facilities are at this point? Jonathan, I'm not going to go into any detail on that. Well, I'm just asking if you're confident in the assessment? Do you believe -- because he's hidden nuclear capability in the past. I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters on the show this morning. I apologize for that. You understand that I simply can't do that. So, if diplomacy fails on this, is there a military option? A realistic military option for getting rid of the nuclear program? President has been very clear, Jonathan. We're not going to allow Kim Jong-un to continue to threaten America. We're not going to let him develop a program such that Americans are held at risk. I want to play something you said in July. At the -- Jonathan, I'm sorry. Jonathan, I'm sorry. I apologize. I'm going to have to run. Can I ask you one more question before we head out of here? Sure. I want to play something you said at the aspen forum in July. The north Korean people, I'm sure, are lovely people and would love to see him go, as well. As you might know, they don't live a very good life there. That was in July. Since then you have been to North Korea. You have met directly with Kim Jong-un. Do you still think that the people there in North Korea would like to see him go? Jonathan, what I said that evening, I still believe. The people of North Korea live in very difficult conditions. Believe that one of the reasons that Kim Jong-un is engaged in this conversation is that the pressure campaign that's been applied by president trump and by the world has put them in more tenuous, more difficult position. So I'm optimistic. We'll work hard to see if we can't find a solution so that the north Korean people can in fact live a better life. Our thanks to secretary Pompeo who spoke to us from Saudi Arabia. We had hoped to ask him about Iran and other hot spots. As you saw there, he had to run to a dinner with the Saudi crown prince.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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