According to the US media (in chorus) it was president Trump who took the decision (without prior consultation with his Cabinet, national security and intelligence advisors) to meet face to face North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a US-DPRK Summit.
According to reports, this decision was taken spontaneously by president Trump following discussions in the Oval Office with a South Korean delegation headed by ROK National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong on March 8:
In a stunning turn of events, Trump personally intervened in a security briefing intended for his top deputies, inviting the South Korean officials into the Oval Office, where he agreed on the spot to a historic but exceedingly risky summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. (WP, March 9, 2018)
Trump announced his decision on the driveway outside the West Wing of the White House to the media, which was immediately broadcast live on TV networks Worldwide.
Sanctions would remain in place. The underlying focus would be to demand that the DPRK abandon its nuclear weapons program. According to White House sources, President Trump would require “concrete steps and concrete actions” by North Korea prior to the conduct of the proposed summit.
On Friday March 9, Trump announced that a deal with North Korea was “very much in the making”. In the words of Rex Tillerson, it was Trump that took the decision:
“In terms of the decision to engage with President Trump and Kim Jong Un, that’s a decision the president took himself, ... He’s expressed it openly before about his willingness to meet with Kim Jong Un, so now I think it’s a question of agreeing on the timing of that first meeting between the two of them and a location.” (quoted in the WSJ, March 9, 2018)
The Inter-Korean Peace Talks
North-South inter-Korean peace talks were initiated on January 9th, pursued throughout the Winter Olympics. What was revealed were the public statements of South Korea’s president Moon, the major events surrounding the Olympics including the inauguration ceremonies pointing to ties of friendship and solidarity between the two Koreas.
Several media described the inter-Korean dialogue as a “slap in the face” to Washington, which had attempted to sabotage the North-South talks. In what was described as US-led “War against the Peace”, the Pentagon responded by threatening a “Bloody Nose” operation using tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea. US threats emanating from the White House were also directed against the South Korean government of President Moon, intimating that restrictions on bilateral trade and investment against the ROK were being contemplated.
What was no revealed to the public were the discussions (of an entirely different nature) behind closed doors between North and South Korean national security officials as well as the “behind the scenes” role of US intelligence in these negotiations.
The CIA has a close and overlapping working relationship with its ROK counterpart The Korea Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) (now referred to as The National Intelligence Service). The KCIA created in 1961 during the US sponsored military regime of President Park Chung-hee, has consistently acted as a de facto subsidiary of the CIA, largely acting on behalf of US intelligence.
In turn, in consultation with and on behalf of the CIA, the KCIA has developed over the years an unofficial bilateral “working relationship” with its North Korean intelligence counterparts.
Prior and in the course of the Winter Olympics, several key bilateral meetings were held between key national security and intelligence officials of North and South Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s National security adviser Chung Eui-yong was put in charge of the negotiations in Pyongyang, officially acting on behalf of South Korea, but also (indirectly) on behalf of the United States.
On March 6, (local time), Chung Eui-yong, together with four other senior ROK officials met up with the DPRK leadership in Pyongyang. The delegation was also received at a State dinner with Kim Jong-un.
The ROK delegation also included Suh Hoon, head of the ROK’s National Intelligence Service (KCIA), who was appointed by President Moon in May 2017. His appointment had been approved by Washington.
While KCIA Chief Suh Hoon had previously worked on a mandate geared towards dialogue and peace on behalf of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, and now on behalf of President Moon, he nonetheless has routine consultations with CIA director Mike Pompeo. In relation to the Pyongyang talks, it is highly unlikely that Suh Hoon and Chung Eui-yong would have acted without consulting their counterparts in Washington, namely CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser General H. R. McMaster. . .