Trump claim raises eye­brows: NKorea no longer a nuke threat?

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Matthew Pen­ning­ton and Josh Le­d­er­man

WASH­ING­TON » Amer­ica and the world can “sleep well tonight,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared on Wed­nes­day, boast­ing that his sum­mit with Kim Jong Un had ended any nu­clear threat from North Korea though 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 first 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 tweeted 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.”

He bris­tled at ques­tions from re­porters about the vague word­ing of the state­ment where North Korea “com­mits to work to­ward com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula” — a prom­ise it has made sev­eral times be­fore in the past 25 years and re­neged on. Pom­peo said Kim un­der­stands that “there will be in-depth 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.”

While Trump was fac­ing ques­tions at home and among al­lies about whether he gave away too much in re­turn for too lit­tle, North Korean state me­dia her­alded claims of a vic­to­ri­ous meet­ing with the U.S. pres­i­dent. Pho­tos of Kim stand­ing side-by-side with Trump on the world stage were splashed across news­pa­pers.

JUNG YEON-JE/POOL PHOTO VIA AP

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, right, walks with U.S. Gen­eral Vin­cent K. Brooks, left, com­man­der of United States Forces Korea, upon his ar­rival at Osan Air Base in Pyeong­taek Wed­nes­day. South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial of­fice said Pom­peo will meet Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in Thurs­day morn­ing to dis­cuss the meet­ing, which made his­tory as the first be­tween sit­ting lead­ers of the U.S. and North Korea.

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