Inhofe Says Kim Jong Un Coming To WH, Office Walks Back Comment
OKLAHOMA CITY - During a press conference, which was supposed to be about new Veterans Affairs legislation on Friday, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be coming to the White House to engage in talks to “denuclearize” the rogue nation.
“Last night proved that [National Intelligence Director Dan Coates and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Gen. Robert Ashley] were wrong on this because [Mr. Kim] has called up now, he’s going to meet in the White House with our President and it could very well be that you’ve seen the last of the problem in North Korea,” Inhofe told reporters at the meeting in Oklahoma City.
He also misidentified Dan Coates as the Director of the CIA. It was corrected for this story.
Inhofe was referring to statements made by the two intelligence chiefs during a Senate hearing last week, in which the pair said they did not believe Mr. Kim’s attitudes towards the US would change.
Mr. Kim, however, did change. Late Thursday, the infamously unpredictable leader extended an unprecedented invitation to President Donald Trump to meet and discuss the future of North Korea’s nuclear program. Mr. Trump accepted the invitation and reportedly plans by to meet by May.
The invitation was a shock given Mr. Kim’s history as a sometimes Twitter target for Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly referred to Mr. Kim as “little rocket man” and has threatened him with “fire and fury.”
Inhofe’s spokesperson, Leacy Burke, said the Senator most likely misspoke and had intended to say Mr. Kim would “meet with the White House, with the President,” adding although Inhofe is the Chair of the Armed Services Committee, he would not be privy to in-depth information about a diplomatic visit like this at this point.
If the negotiations take place, Mr. Trump would be the first sitting U.S. President to meet with the leader of the isolated regime. The first of their kind talks are expected be delicate and fraught with diplomatic quagmires.
Efforts in the past to engage with the Kim family have collapsed after the regime repeatedly broke international agreements. Plans to restart similar talks proved fruitless until the recent diplomatic outreach by the North and South Korean leaders during the recent Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.
The complexity of the proposed face-to-face meeting makes the apparent misstep of Senator Inhofe one that could impact the tone and events of the early planning stages being done on both sides, especially between two leaders with the inclination for brash and dramatic political posturing.
It’s unclear, though, whether Inhofe’s apparent error could have any effect on the progress of discussions, given his high-ranking position in the U.S. Senate. According to the Armed Services Committee website, members are responsible for policy surrounding national security of nuclear energy and “common defense.”
It’s also unclear whether the White House was aware of the comments made by the senior Senator. Question for comment was not returned Friday afternoon.