‘There is no longer a nu­clear threat’: Trump

But critics cau­tion that con­cerns over North Korea are far from over

The Welland Tribune - - Canada & World - EILEEN SUL­LI­VAN

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­turned to the United States early Wed­nes­day prais­ing his diplo­matic prow­ess af­ter his meet­ing with the North Korean leader and declar­ing, “There is no longer a Nu­clear Threat” from Pyongyang.

In a se­ries of Twit­ter posts at dawn, the pres­i­dent pro­jected con­fi­dence as Air Force One landed out­side Wash­ing­ton.

Af­ter his sum­mit meet­ing with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, in Sin­ga­pore, Trump ap­peared to be tak­ing a vic­tory lap even as critics cau­tioned that the nu­clear threat from North Korea is far from over.

“Just landed — a long trip, but every­body can now feel much safer than the day I took of­fice,” he wrote. “There is no longer a Nu­clear Threat from North Korea. Meet­ing with Kim Jong Un was an in­ter­est­ing and very pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. North Korea has great po­ten­tial for the fu­ture!”

“Be­fore tak­ing of­fice peo­ple were as­sum­ing that we were go­ing to War with North Korea,” he wrote in another post. “Pres­i­dent Obama said that North Korea was our big­gest and most dan­ger­ous prob­lem. No longer — sleep well tonight!”

But ques­tions re­mained about whether the United States gave up more than it gained at what had been a much-an­tic­i­pated meet­ing be­tween Trump and Kim.

North Korea state me­dia re­ported Wed­nes­day that Kim won ma­jor con­ces­sions from the U.S. pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing an agree­ment by Trump to a phased, “step-by-step” de­nu­cle­ariza­tion process for the North, rather than the im­me­di­ate dis­man­tling of its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity.

Amer­i­can hard-lin­ers like John Bolton, now Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, have op­posed that ap­proach. In the past, Bolton had ar­gued that the North must quickly dis­man­tle and ship out its nu­clear weapons pro­gram in its en­tirety, as Libya did more than a decade ago.

The official Korean Cen­tral News Agency also re­ported that Trump promised to even­tu­ally lift sanc­tions against the North and cease mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea.

In one tweet Wed­nes­day, Trump pushed back against crit­i­cism that he had handed a vic­tory to Kim by promis­ing to end those ex­er­cises, which he de­scribed as “war games.”

“We save a for­tune by not do­ing war games, as long as we are ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith — which both sides are!” he wrote.

A joint state­ment signed by the two lead­ers did not in­clude a time­line for de­nu­cle­ariza­tion or de­tails about how the North would move for­ward. In­stead, the doc­u­ment — which many had hoped would be a road map for a nu­clear agree­ment — was filled with diplo­matic language that had been used in pre­vi­ous state­ments over the past 20 years.

The pres­i­dent had no public events on his sched­ule for Wed­nes­day, but was busy tweet­ing on a va­ri­ety of top­ics, in­clud­ing praise for the United States, Mex­ico and Canada for win­ning the bid to host soc­cer’s 2026

World Cup.

Trump also touted his po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in a House Repub­li­can pri­mary race in South Carolina that ousted in­cum­bent Rep. Mark San­ford in favour of a con­ser­va­tive chal­lenger, Katie Ar­ring­ton. On Tues­day af­ter­noon, Trump had tweeted that San­ford, an out­spo­ken critic of the pres­i­dent, is “noth­ing but trou­ble.”

And Trump at­tacked ca­ble news net­works and said the net­works were try­ing to “down­play” the agree­ment with North Korea and said it looked like “war would break out,” dur­ing his early days in the Oval Of­fice. He also said Amer­ica’s big­gest en­emy is “Fake News.”

The dan­ger posed by North Korea was con­sid­ered among the “lead­ing threat ac­tors” by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 as­sess­ment, which was the most re­cent public as­sess­ment when Trump as­sumed of­fice in Jan­uary of 2017.

The 2018 threat as­sess­ment, re­leased in Fe­bru­ary, also listed North Korea as a top threat, calling the North “among the most volatile and con­fronta­tional” weapons of mass de­struc­tion threat over the next year. A month be­fore the threat as­sess­ment was re­leased, Trump taunted Kim on Twit­ter and raised con­cerns about an es­ca­lat­ing con­flict.

“Will some­one from his de­pleted and food starved regime please in­form him that I too have a Nu­clear But­ton, but it is a much big­ger & more pow­er­ful one than his, and my But­ton works!” Trump wrote in a Jan­uary tweet.

On Tues­day, at the end of the hours-long meet­ings in Sin­ga­pore, Trump praised Kim as “tal­ented.”

“Any­body that takes over a sit­u­a­tion like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough — I don’t say it was nice, or I don’t say any­thing about it — he ran it,” Trump said, gloss­ing over the decades of hu­man rights abuses North Kore­ans have faced.

Kim is known for his bru­tal style, or­der­ing the ex­e­cu­tions of at least 340 peo­ple since he took over power from his fa­ther in 2011.

Still, the pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged that there is no cer­tainty that the North will get rid of its nu­clear weapons.

“You can’t en­sure any­thing. All I can say is they want to make a deal. That’s what I do. My whole life has been deals. I’ve done great at it and that’s what I do,” Trump said in a news con­fer­ence with re­porters Tues­day af­ter the meet­ings.

“And I know when some­body wants to deal and I know when some­body doesn’t,” Trump said. “A lot of politi­cians don’t. That’s not their thing, but it is my thing.”

SEONGJOON CHO BLOOMBERG

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks af­ter his sum­mit meet­ing with Kim Jong Un.

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