President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un produced a historic handshake but all of the work to make the deal a reality lies ahead, with no benchmarks for progress, follow-up meetings scheduled or even common agreement on what success would look like.
The lack of any details contributed to an air of skepticism in Washington about what Trump accomplished, and not just from Democrats. While the president won general praise for talking to Kim—instead of tweeting at him—even some Republicans were grasping for concrete takeaways and sounding cautious.
“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the
fact that Kim Jong-un is
a butcher and he is a butcher of his own people,” Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, a Republican, said. “Trying to reason with someone like that is like trying to hand feed a shark. Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you’ve got to do it very, very carefully.”
Confusion flared while Trump was still in the air on the way home from Singapore. The details were so unclear that a Republican senator tweeted out what appeared to be a misunderstanding that the Trump
administration was walking back a pledge to end biannual military exercises with South Korea after Vice
President Mike Pence gave a closed briefing to lawmakers. Cancelling the “war games,” as Trump calls them, isn’t even mentioned in the page-and-a-half declaration the two leaders signed, adding to the anxiety about what Trump actually agreed to do.
At the same time, the president risks losing leverage. A Chinese official already signalled the country may ask the UN to lift or
adjust economic sanctions on North Korea, the basis for the “maximum pressure” campaign Trump has used to push Kim towards disarmament. China, as North Korea’s neighbour and
most important trading partner, also could provide relief to Kim by throttling down sanctions enforcement on its own.
Korea analysts and members of Congress see a long road ahead — and signs
in Trump’s celebratory post-summit media blitz that he doesn’t appreciate the challenges.
“There’s really a very, very far way to go because this initial step was so small and disappointing,” said Bruce Klingner, a former deputy division chief for Korea at the Central Intelligence Agency and senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Trump described the next steps only vaguely and offered no specifics on how his administration will verify Kim’s actions.
N Korea poses no N-threat, despite weapons: Trump
President Donald Trump declared that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, even though Kim Jong-un hasn’t committed to a timetable for giving up his regime’s weapons.
“Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump said on Twitter shortly after arriving back in Washington from his meetings in Singapore with Kim. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Trump and Kim’s summit produced a historic handshake and a joint statement that committed North Korea to “complete denuclearization” without providing any details about how that would happen. The omission of the words “verifiable” and “irreversible” from the phrasing on denuclearisation suggested North
Korean resistance to Trump’s requests.
“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that Kim Jong-un is a butcher and he is a butcher of his own people,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said.