Trump up­beat fol­low­ing sum­mit

Claim of no NKorea nuke threat raises eye­brows

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Pennington and Josh Le­d­er­man

WASHINGTON » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump stretched credulity at home and abroad Wed­nes­day by declar­ing there is “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” af­ter his sum­mit with Kim Jong Un that re­duced ten­sions but pro­duced no de­tails on how or when Pyongyang might dis­arm.

Tem­per­ing Trump’s very up­beat as­sess­ment, his top diplo­mat, Mike Pom­peo, 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.

The sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore marked a sea change from last fall, when North Korea was con­duct­ing nuclear and mis­sile tests, and Trump and Kimwere 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. That didn’t stop the pres­i­dent from talk­ing 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 on the sum­mit, 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. He said the North Korean leader 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 told re­porters. “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.”

The sec­re­tary of state said the brief, four-point 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.

While Trump was fac­ing ques­tions at home and among al­lies about whether he gave away too much in re­turn for too lit­tle at the sum­mit, 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.

Trump’s own chest­thump­ing tweet seemed rem­i­nis­cent of the “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” ban­ner flown be­hind Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in 2003 when he spoke aboard a Navy ship fol­low­ing the U. S. in­va­sion of Iraq. The words came back to haunt the ad­min­is­tra­tion, as the war dragged on through­out Bush’s pres­i­dency.

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 t aking 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 trained ever more fiery rhetoric on each other.

When asked Wed­nes­day whether Trump was jump­ing the gun by declar­ing vic­tory, White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way told re­porters: “This pres­i­dent wants North Korea to com­pletely de­nu­cle­arize so ob­vi­ously that has to be com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible.

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 cost­sav­ing 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.”

“He was un­am­bigu­ous about that and how he com­mu­ni­cated it, both at the press con­fer­ence but cer­tainly when he was with Chair­man Kim as well,” Pom­peo said.

In North Korea on Wed­nes­day, Pyongyang’s first re­ports on the sum­mit stressed to the na­tion’s peo­ple that Trump had agreed to Kim’s de­mand to halt the mil­i­tary ex­er­cises and sug­gested that Trump also said he would lift sanc­tions as nega­tions pro­gressed.

“Pres­i­dent Trump ap­pre­ci­ated that an at­mos­phere of peace and sta­bil­ity was cre­ated on the Korean Penin­sula and in the re­gion, al­though dis­tressed with the ex­treme dan­ger of armed clash only a few months ago, thanks to the proac­tive peace-lov­ing mea­sures taken by the re­spected Supreme Leader from the out­set of this year,” the North’s state-run Korean Cen­tral News Agency said in a sum­mary of the meet­ing.

Pom­peo, af­ter land­ing in South Korea, met for nearly an hour with Gen. Vin­cent Brooks, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Korea. The sec­re­tary of state is to meet Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in on Thurs­day morn­ing to dis­cuss the sum­mit. Ja­panese For­eign Min­is­ter Taro Kono also headed to Seoul and was to meet with Pom­peo and his South Korean coun­ter­part. Pom­peo, the former CIA di- rec­tor, then plans to fly to Bei­jing to up­date the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

In Ja­pan, the prospect of can­celed U.S.- South Korean drills was met with con­cern.

“The U. S.- South Korea joint ex­er­cises and U. S. forces in South Korea play sig­nif­i­cant roles for the se­cu­rity in East Asia,” De­fense Min­is­ter It­sunori On­odera told re­porters Wed­nes­day. He said he planned to con­tinue shar­ing the view with Washington and Seoul.

The U. S. has sta­tioned com­bat troops in South Korea since the end of the Korean War and has used them in a va­ri­ety of drills. The next sched­uled ma­jor ex­er­cise, in­volv­ing tens of thou­sands of troops, nor­mally would be held in Au­gust.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo ar­rives at Osan Air Base in Pyeong­taek Wed­nes­day.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A news­pa­per ven­dor holds up a front page photo of the meet­ing in Sin­ga­pore be­tween U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a news­stand in Bei­jing, China, Tues­day. China has sug­gested that the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil con­sider suspending or lifting sanc­tions against North Korea if the coun­try is in com­pli­ance with U.N. res­o­lu­tions and mak­ing progress in diplo­matic ne­go­ti­a­tions.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A man reads a news­pa­per re­port­ing the sum­mit be­tween U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a news­pa­per dis­tribut­ing sta­tion in Seoul, South Korea, Tues­day.

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