Trump Team Sees ‘Major Disarmament’ of North Korea in 2.5 Years
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday in which the Trump administration hopes to complete “major disarmament” of North Korea within the next 2½ years, even as conflicting accounts of discussions between the two sides left unclear what had actually been agreed to.
A day after President Trump’s landmark meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore, the two leaders in addition to also their governments sought to shape the understanding of their talks to their advantage. yet the contours of the vague agreement remained unclear in addition to also open to divergent interpretations.
North Korea’s state-controlled news media said in which Mr. Trump had agreed to a phased, “step by step” denuclearization process rather than the immediate dismantling of its nuclear capability, with the United States providing reciprocal benefits at each stage along the way. Mr. Trump has previously insisted in which he will not lift sanctions until North Korea has rid itself of its nuclear weapons.
The Trump administration, for its part, insisted in which the general wording of the joint statement signed by Mr. Trump in addition to also Mr. Kim committed North Korea to an intrusive inspection regime to confirm its “complete denuclearization.” The statement itself, however, did not explicitly use the words “verifiable” or “irreversible” in which had been part of the mantra of American officials leading up to the Singapore summit meeting.
“Let me assure you in which the ‘complete’ encompasses ‘verifiable’ within the minds of everyone concerned,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters in Seoul, where he flew to consult with South Korean officials. “One can’t completely denuclearize without validating, authenticating — you pick the word.”
When a reporter pressed in addition to also asked for more details about how the idea would certainly be verified, Mr. Pompeo grew testy. “I find in which question insulting in addition to also ridiculous in addition to also, frankly, ludicrous,” he said.
Mr. Pompeo indicated in which Mr. Trump hoped to get the major steps of denuclearization in place before his term ends in January 2021. “Most certainly within the president’s first term,” he said. “You used the term ‘major disarmament,’ something like in which? Yes, we’re hopeful in which we can achieve in which within the next, what is actually the idea, two in addition to also a half years, something like in which.”
The president himself did not dwell on the details as he landed back in Washington early Wednesday morning. Instead, he claimed a sweeping achievement even before any of the details have been worked out.
“Just landed — a long trip, yet everybody can right now feel much safer than the day I took office,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is actually no longer a Nuclear Threat coming from North Korea.”
“Before taking office people were assuming in which we were going to War with North Korea,” he added. “President Obama said in which North Korea was our biggest in addition to also most dangerous problem. No longer — sleep well tonight!”
He claimed in which there was no longer a nuclear threat even though North Korea has not given up any of its weapons or dismantled any of its 141 known nuclear facilities various other than blowing up a test site. Mr. Trump’s assertion drew derision coming from critics who accused him of getting way ahead of what could be a long, difficult negotiation to translate the gauzy aspiration of Singapore into a workable plan.
“What planet is actually the president on?” asked Senator Chuck Schumer of fresh York, the Democratic minority leader. “Saying the idea doesn’t make the idea so. North Korea still has nuclear weapons. the idea still has ICBMs. the idea still has the United States in danger. Somehow President Trump thinks when he says something the idea becomes reality. If the idea were only in which easy, only in which simple.”
Lawmakers in addition to also allies alike were left trying to discern what exactly Mr. Trump agreed to in addition to also how the follow-up negotiations would certainly proceed. Mr. Pompeo planned to brief South Korean officials who were caught off guard to learn in which the president had agreed to suspend joint military exercises in a significant concession to North Korea.
“The critical question is actually what comes next?” said Kelsey Davenport, nonproliferation policy director at the Washington-based Arms Control Association. “The true test of success is actually whether the follow-on negotiations can close the gap between the United States in addition to also North Korea on the definition of denuclearization in addition to also lay out specific, verifiable steps in which Pyongyang will take to reduce the threat posed by its nuclear weapons.”
If the talks in Singapore on Tuesday gave Mr. Trump an opportunity to play the diplomat on a grand scale, they did no less for Mr. Kim, whose country has long sought such a meeting with an American president. The state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun plastered the pages of its Wednesday edition with coloring photographs of Mr. Kim in addition to also Mr. Trump talking, walking in addition to also smiling, apparently as equals, with the flags of the two countries arranged side by side as a backdrop.
Only after the signing ceremony did the idea emerge in which more commitments had apparently been made than were listed within the joint statement. In a post-summit news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trump announced in which the United States would certainly end joint military exercises with its South Korean allies, which Pyongyang has long denounced as rehearsals for an invasion of the North. The news appeared to catch both the South Korean government in addition to also the United States military off guard.
On Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in in Seoul appeared to endorse Mr. Trump’s decision. “While North Korea in addition to also the United States are engaged in sincere talks on denuclearization in addition to also relations-building, we recognize the need to find various options to smooth such dialogue,” said a spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported in which Mr. Trump had agreed to “lift sanctions” once bilateral relations improve. Mr. Trump had said on Tuesday in which the sanctions would certainly stay in place until North Korea dismantled enough of its nuclear program to make the idea difficult to reverse course. Mr. Trump said the denuclearization process would certainly begin “very soon” in addition to also happen “very quickly.”
yet the North Korean news agency said the two leaders had agreed to a phased process in which Pyongyang would certainly bargain away its nuclear arsenal in stages, securing matching actions coming from the United States at each step. Such a process has been opposed by American hard-liners like John R. Bolton, right now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who has argued within the past in which the North must quickly dismantle in addition to also ship out its nuclear weapons program in its entirety, as Libya did more than a decade ago.
“Kim Jong-un in addition to also Trump had the shared recognition to the effect in which the idea is actually important to abide by the principle of step-by-step in addition to also simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability in addition to also denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
Mr. Pompeo declined to discuss the North Korean report. “I’m going to leave the content of our discussions as between the two parties, yet one should heavily discount some things in which are written in various other places,” he said.
To some, including Mr. Moon, the South Korean leader, the summit meeting was a success even if many questions remained unanswered. Mr. Moon in addition to also others saw the idea as the clearest signal yet in which the two countries were walking away coming from the brink of war in addition to also were willing to take bold steps to end decades of hostility.
within the weeks leading up to the meeting, North Korea suspended nuclear in addition to also missile tests, released three American hostages in addition to also disabled its only known nuclear test site. Mr. Kim agreed on Tuesday to help the United States find in addition to also bring home the remains of Americans coming from major Korean War battle sites within the North.
yet the agreement signed on Tuesday lacks any detail on the central issue, denuclearization, raising fears among analysts in which once negotiators wade into the specifics, the talks could end in stalemate, as they have after past nuclear disarmament accords. South Korean officials expect in which the two strong-willed leaders will push the process ahead, with an eye on their legacies.
Mr. Kim needs to improve ties with Washington in addition to also lift sanctions if he wants to keep his promise to develop North Korea’s economy. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly boasted in which he would certainly resolve a problem his predecessors could not. He appears to believe in which his willingness to engage the once-hermetic Mr. Kim within the global spotlight will encourage him to shed his isolation in addition to also denuclearize.
Mr. Trump has recently acknowledged in which denuclearization could take time, yet he appears eager for the idea to start quickly. He said on Tuesday in which Mr. Kim had promised to dismantle a facility for testing missile engines. In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Trump also said North Korea planned to “get rid of certain ballistic missile sites in addition to also various various other things.” As of Wednesday, there had been no announcement coming from North Korea about removing such facilities.
Peter Baker reported coming from Washington, in addition to also Choe Sang-hun coming from Seoul.
Follow Peter Baker on Twitter: @peterbakernyt.