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 Wednesday 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 denuclearization suggested North Korean resistance to Trump’s requests.
The lack of details contributed to an air of skepticism in Washington about what Trump accomplished, even from some Republicans. 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,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said Tuesday. “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.”
U.S. defense analysts have said Kim retains as many as 60 nuclear bombs and a range of missiles, including some he says can strike the U.S.
North Korea has pledged to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in virtually all agreements since 1992, but implementation has broken down due to a lack of consensus on what that means. Pyongyang has since pulled out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, built a complete nuclear fuel cycle, assembled an arsenal of nuclear weapons and developed the missiles to fire them.
The president, who earlier in his administration ratcheted up tensions with Kim, in part by derisively referring to him as “Little Rocket Man,” subsequently implored Americans to rest easier now than they did under his predecessor.
“Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea,” Trump said in another tweet. “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!”
Trump also defended his decision to suspend some unspecified military exercises with South Korea, a move that wasn’t listed in the joint declaration but instead announced during his post-summit news conference.
“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith – which both sides are!” he wrote in a tweet.