WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump returned to the nation’s capital early Wednesday morning, taking to Twitter after his journey home from Singapore to declare there “is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” following his one-on-one summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” the president wrote shortly before 6 a.m. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”
Trump’s assurance that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal poses no imminent threat to the United States comes despite foreign policy experts noting that the four-point agreement signed by the president and Kim offers no time frame for North Korea to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
The agreement signed by both leaders, after an unprecedented sit-down meeting on Tuesday, states that North Korea “commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The document does not offer details on achieving the objective or outline a process for verifying that North Korea has indeed abandoned its development of nuclear missiles, a common practice in other denuclearization agreements.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters in South Korea where he was slated to meet with South Korean and Japanese officials, said he expected North Korea’s “major disarmament” to occur over the next two and half years.
“The President has said, and it’s common knowledge, the work itself takes some amount of time,” Pompeo said.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told reporters on Tuesday he hoped to convene a meeting with Pompeo because “at this juncture, I don’t think we know enough to challenge or celebrate” the agreement.
In a follow-up tweet Wednesday, Trump took aim at his predecessor’s handling of relations with North Korea.
“Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea,” Trump said. “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer - sleep well tonight!”
The president also defended his concession to North Korea that the United States will suspend military drills conducted alongside South Korea on the Korean Peninsula. Trump described the move, which South Korean officials have said came as a “surprise” to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as a cost-saving measure.
“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith - which both sides are!” Trump tweeted.
North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that the U.S. had made several concessions not mentioned in the joint agreement signed by Kim and Trump, including agreeing to a “step-by-step” denuclearization process, which Trump’s top foreign policy advisers, including Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, have spoken out against. Both men have said the administration should push for a swift denuclearization plan, that would not allow North Korea to backpedal on its commitment as it has done in the past with similar agreements.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers criticized the president’s assertion of safety, while Republicans rallied behind the president.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during remarks on the Senate floor, said all lawmakers “want this diplomacy to succeed,” but he questioned “What planet is the president on?”
“North Korea still has nuclear weapons. It still has ICBMs. It still has the United States in danger. Somehow President Trump thinks when he says something it becomes reality; if it were only that easy, only that simple,” Schumer said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told reporters during a news briefing, “The status quo was not working with North Korea. The president should be applauded for disrupting the status quo.”