‘There is no longer a nuclear threat’: Trump
But critics caution that concerns over North Korea are far from over
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
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.”
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un.