World should “sleep” eas­ier

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Pen­ning­ton and Josh Le­d­er­man

WASH­ING­TON» Amer­ica and the world can “sleep well tonight,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared Wed­nes­day, boast­ing that his sum­mit with Kim Jong Un had ended any nu­clear threat from North Korea, al­though the meet­ing pro­duced no de­tails on how or when weapons might be elim­i­nated or even re­duced.

While Trump claimed a his­toric break­through at the most sig­nif­i­cant diplo­matic event of his pres­i­dency, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo was more mea­sured. He said the U.S. wants North Korea to take “ma­jor” nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment steps within the next two years — be­fore the end of Trump’s term, in 2021.

Pom­peo also cau­tioned that the U.S. would re­sume “war games” with close ally South Korea if the North stops ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith. The pres­i­dent had an­nounced a halt in the drills af­ter

his meet­ing with Kim on Tues­day, a con­ces­sion long sought by Py­ongyang.

The sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore did mark a re­duc­tion in ten­sions — a sea change from last fall, when North Korea was con­duct­ing nu­clear and mis­sile tests and Trump and Kim were trad­ing threats and in­sults that stoked fears of war. Kim is now promis­ing to work to­ward a de­nu­cle­arized Korean Penin­sula.

But the de­tails of what is sure to be a com­plex and con­tentious process have yet to be set­tled.

De­spite the uncer­tain­ties, Trump talked up the out­come of what was the first meet­ing be­tween a U.S. and North Korean leader in six decades of hos­til­ity. The Korean War ended in 1953 with­out a peace treaty, leav­ing the two sides in a tech­ni­cal state of war.

“Just landed - a long trip, but ev­ery­body can now feel much safer than the day I took of­fice,” Trump tweet- ed early Wed­nes­day. “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!”

Pom­peo, who flew to Seoul to brief South Korean lead­ers, said the brief, four­point joint state­ment that emerged from the sum­mit did not en­cap­su­late all the progress the U.S. and North Korea had made. He said ne­go­ti­a­tions would recom­mence “in the next week or so.”

Pom­peo said Kim un­der­stands that “there will be indepth ver­i­fi­ca­tion” in any deal with the U.S.

“We have big teams ready to go,” in­clud­ing ex­perts from the U.S. and other part­ners around the world, Pom­peo said. “We’re pre­pared to ex­e­cute this once we’re in a po­si­tion that we can ac­tu­ally get to a place where we can do it.”

Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses a nu­clear threat is ques­tion­able con­sid­er­ing Py­ongyang’s sig­nif­i­cant weapons ar­se­nal.

In­de­pen­dent ex­perts say the North could have enough fis­sile ma­te­rial for be­tween about a dozen and 60 nu­clear bombs. Last year, it tested long-range mis­siles that could reach the U.S. main­land, al­though it re­mains un­clear if it has mastered the tech­nol­ogy to de­liver a nu­clear war­head that could re-en­ter the at­mos­phere and hit its tar­get.

“Be­fore tak­ing of­fice peo­ple were as­sum­ing that we were go­ing to War with North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “Pres­i­dent (Barack) Obama said that North Korea was our big­gest and most dan­ger­ous prob­lem. No longer - sleep well tonight!”

Ac­tu­ally, con­cerns about North Korean mis­siles and nu­clear weapons reached a peak last year, dur­ing Trump’s first year in of­fice, as the North con­ducted more tests and Trump and Kim aimed ever more fiery rhetoric at each other.

Christo­pher Hill, chief U.S. ne­go­tia­tor with North Korea in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, sug­gested in an in­ter­view that it’s “a lit­tle pre­ma­ture” for Trump to say Kim is some­one the U.S. can trust.

“Kim Jong Un has proved to be a pretty ruth­less leader in North Korea, and I’m not sure this sort of speed dat­ing of a 45-minute oneon-one meet­ing ... would sug­gest that there’s noth­ing to be con­cerned about,” he said.

Freez­ing the reg­u­lar mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea is a ma­jor con­ces­sion to North Korea that has long claimed the drills were in­va­sion prepa­ra­tions. Trump’s an­nounce­ment ap­peared to catch the Pen­tagon and of­fi­cials in Seoul off guard, and some South Kore­ans were alarmed. Trump cast the de­ci­sion as a cost-sav­ing mea­sure, but also called the ex­er­cises “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” while talks con­tinue.

Pom­peo said he was there when Trump talked about it with Kim, and the pres­i­dent “made very clear” that the con­di­tion for the freeze was that good-faith talks be on­go­ing. He told re­porters that if the U.S. con­cludes they no longer are, the freeze “will no longer be in ef­fect.”

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