Trump tells world it can ‘sleep well’ after North Korea sum­mit

Democrats say too soon to cel­e­brate, sen­a­tor calls claim ‘delu­sional’

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Trump as­serted Wed­nes­day that North Korea no longer poses a nu­clear threat, rais­ing ques­tions in Wash­ing­ton about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s elu­sive de­tails for dis­arm­ing Py­ongyang, a day after the pres­i­dent’s his­toric sum­mit with Kim Jong-un.

Re­turn­ing to the White House around dawn after a nearly 24-hour jour­ney from the sum­mit site in Sin­ga­pore, the pres­i­dent said the world could “sleep well” as a re­sult of his agree­ment with North Korea’s leader.

“There is no longer a Nu­clear Threat from North Korea,” Mr. Trump tweeted, adding that “ev­ery­body can now feel much safer than the day I took office.”

The joint sum­mit state­ment signed by the two lead­ers com­mit­ted North Korea to the “com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula,” but doesn’t spec­ify a process or timetable.

Democrats said the pres­i­dent was spik­ing the football in cel­e­bra­tion be­fore cross­ing the goal line, some even com­par­ing it with Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” ban­ner dur­ing the Iraq war, years be­fore fight­ing ended.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Mary­land Demo­crat, called Mr. Trump’s claim “truly delu­sional.”

“It [North Korea] has same arse­nal to­day as 48 hours ago,” he tweeted. “Does he re­ally think his big photo-op ended the [North Korea’s] nu­clear pro­gram? Hope does not equal re­al­ity.”

For­mer Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion spe­cial en­voy Ge­orge Mitchell called the pres­i­dent’s com­ment “un­wise and pre­ma­ture.”

In a sur­vey re­leased Wed­nes­day by Reuters, 39 per­cent of Amer­i­cans be­lieve the sum­mit has low­ered the threat of nu­clear war be­tween the U.S. and North Korea, while 37 per­cent said they don’t be­lieve it has changed any­thing.

Slightly more than half of all Amer­i­cans say they ap­prove of how Mr. Trump has han­dled North Korea, but only a quar­ter think that his sum­mit this week with Mr. Kim will lead to the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean penin­sula.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion and its Repub­li­can al­lies de­fended the terms of the agree­ment, say­ing “com­plete” de­nu­cle­ariza­tion means just that — com­plete.

“This pres­i­dent wants North Korea to com­pletely de­nu­cle­arize so ob­vi­ously that has to be com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible,” said White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, speak­ing at the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion in Dal­las said Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and the rest of the U.S. team work­ing on North Korea are now mov­ing into the “trust but ver­ify” phase.

“Now comes vig­or­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions to im­ple­ment the agree­ment …. as soon as pos­si­ble,” Mr. Pence said. “Our sanc­tions will re­main in place un­til North Korea’s nu­clear weapons are no longer a fac­tor. We will not re­peat the mis­takes of the past.”

He also noted that North Korea hasn’t tested a mis­sile in about seven months. Mr. Kim has pledged not to con­duct any more tests.

Be­fore tak­ing office, Mr. Trump tweeted, “peo­ple were as­sum­ing that we were go­ing to War with North Korea.”

“Pres­i­dent Obama said that North Korea was our big­gest and most dan­ger­ous prob­lem. No longer — sleep well tonight!” he said in an­other tweet.

In South Korea, Mr. Pom­peo told re­porters there were other un­der­stand­ings reached be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang that were not in­cluded in the fi­nal signed sum­mit doc­u­ment. He said he’s con­fi­dent North Korea un­der­stands there will be an in-depth ver­i­fi­ca­tion of its dis­ar­ma­ment process, and he hopes a “ma­jor” part of that can be achieved be­fore the end of Mr. Trump’s cur­rent term.

On Thurs­day, the two Koreas held high-level mil­i­tary talks in the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone vil­lage of Pan­munjom, their first such talks since 2007, to be­gin to im­ple­ment steps to re­duce ten­sion along their bor­der, as agreed to in an ear­lier sum­mit be­tween Mr. Kim and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in.

But one side or the other is ex­pected to bring up both the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion pledges and U.S.-South Korea mil­i­tary ex­er­cises.

“We will in­vest our best ef­forts to bring in a new era of peace on the Korean Penin­sula,” South Korean Maj. Gen. Kim Do-gyun told re­porters be­fore the talks.

North Korea is be­lieved to pos­sess more than 50 nu­clear de­vices, with weapons fa­cil­i­ties spread out at roughly 100 sites across the coun­try to evade de­tec­tion. The coun­try’s com­mu­nist regime has made past pledges to the U.S. to curb its weapons pro­grams, only to break the prom­ises and buy more time to fur­ther de­velop its atomic de­vices and longer-range mis­siles.

The sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore marked a ma­jor re­duc­tion of ten­sions from last fall, when North Korea con­ducted a series of mis­sile tests and det­o­nated a hy­dro­gen bomb un­der­ground in vi­o­la­tion of U.N. res­o­lu­tions, and Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim were trad­ing threats of an­ni­hi­la­tion.

House Speaker Paul. D. Ryan said Mr. Trump deserves credit be­cause “the sta­tus quo was not work­ing with North Korea.”

“They were rac­ing to­ward hav­ing mul­ti­ple in­de­pen­dent ICBMs with nu­clear-tipped war­heads on top of them,” he said. “The pres­i­dent should be ap­plauded for dis­rupt­ing the sta­tus quo. Now, let’s go get an agree­ment. And we should be un­der no delu­sion this is go­ing to be fast.”

Democrats ar­gued that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­ly­ing on prom­ises from a regime that isn’t trust­wor­thy, and that noth­ing on the ground has changed in North Korea.

“The re­al­ity is North Korea still has all of the war­heads it had be­fore, the nu­clear war­heads it had be­fore, it has the nu­clear process to create fis­sile ma­te­rial, to create bombs,” said Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez, New Jersey Demo­crat, on CNN. “And so, at the end of the day, the same ex­act threat that we had be­fore the sum­mit ex­ists now.”

North Korean state-run me­dia said Wed­nes­day that Mr. Kim “highly praised the pres­i­dent’s will and en­thu­si­asm to re­solve mat­ters in a re­al­is­tic way through di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tions, away from the hos­til­ity-woven past.”

The news­pa­per Rodong Sin­mun re­ported ex­ten­sive coverage of the sum­mit, say­ing that Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump “gladly ac­cepted each other’s in­vi­ta­tion” to visit Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton, re­spec­tively, in fol­low-up meet­ings from the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion sum­mit.

The coverage in­cluded 33 im­ages of Mr. Trump, Mr. Kim and others at the sum­mit, and it praised the “will of the top lead­ers of the two coun­tries to put an end to the ex­treme hos­tile re­la­tions be­tween the DPRK and the U.S.”

Ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary in NK News, the coverage in North Korea high­lighted Mr. Trump’s prom­ise to end joint U.S.-South Korea mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, but didn’t men­tion Mr. Kim’s prom­ise to de­stroy a ma­jor mis­sile-engine test site in North Korea.


“There is no longer a Nu­clear Threat from North Korea,” tweeted Pres­i­dent Trump. He added that in an­other tweet that “ev­ery­body can now feel much safer.”

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