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July 8, 2018

Gangster Mindset: Pompeo Gets Owned on North Korea Visit

Service staff wait for the arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, for a lunch at a Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea, Saturday, July 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It’s a clever photo that the AP’s Andrew Harnik posted on Instagram.

It was taken during Mike Pompeo’s visit to North Korea last week. His trip was the first diplomatic engagement since the largely substance-free Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. Taken at a guest house before the officials met for lunch, the picture captures what Trump really lives for, which is a great backdrop. Just like the relationship so far, the image is a commentary on ceremony as an end in itself.

Trump legitimized Kim on the international stage. He unilaterally suspended war exercises with South Korea. And, he has mostly ignored reports that North Korea has been busy enhancing its nuclear capability. Given all that, there was a lot of pressure on Pompeo to move denuclearization forward in Pyongyang. Instead, the Secretary of State’s visit to the hermit kingdom was a disaster. Wise to the ways of Trump-speak, the scandals plaguing the administration, and bullying in general, the media-savvy North Koreans verbally framed the administration as displaying “a gangster-like mindset.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), accompanied by North Korea's director of the United Front Department, Kim Yong Chol (3rd L), arrives at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018. - Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on July 6 to press Kim Jong Un for a more detailed commitment to denuclearisation following the North Korean leader's historic summit with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW HARNIK/AFP/Getty Images)

Personally, I’m partial to the shots of the Secretary’s counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, the hard-baked senior party official and former intel chief, dictating Pompeo’s movements. (Otherwise, you can see shots of the banal visit here, or in a State Department Instagram entries here.)

If you’re looking for a photo that really delivers, however, look no further than this one. It’s the latest example of Kim as the media master.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Kim Yong Chol (R), a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, for a second day of talks at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang on July 7, 2018. - Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on July 6 to press Kim Jong Un for a more detailed commitment to denuclearisation following the North Korean leader's historic summit with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW HARNIK/AFP/Getty Images)

Whereas the administration is now feeling the pressure to produce results, the North Koreans are going to town on the new-found legitimacy, the cat-and-mouse game, and all the attention. They can go high. They can go low. Whichever way they go, and however long they draw it out, however, North Korea’s state media keeps filming and snapping away, taking full advantage of the propaganda.

— Michael Shaw

Photos: Andrew Harnik/AP Caption: Service staff wait for the arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, for a lunch at a Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea, Saturday, July 7, 2018;  Caption 2:  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), accompanied by North Korea’s director of the United Front Department, Kim Yong Chol (3rd L), arrives at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018;  Caption 3: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Kim Yong Chol (R), a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, for a second day of talks at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang on July 7, 2018. – Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on July 6 to press Kim Jong Un for a more detailed commitment to denuclearisation following the North Korean leader’s historic summit with President Donald Trump. 

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