SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat and his top diplomat offered a hopeful timeline for “major disarmament,” despite skepticism at home that Pyongyang will abandon its nuclear weapons following this week’s summit.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a joint statement after their historic meeting in Singapore on Tuesday that reaffirmed the North’s commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and gave U.S. guarantees of security to North Korea.
Democratic critics in the US said the agreement was short on detail and the Republican president made too many concessions to Kim, whose country is under UN sanctions for its nuclear and weapons programs and is widely condemned for human rights abuses.
North Korea’s state media hailed the summit as a success, including highlighting Trump’s surprise announcement after the meeting that the US would stop military exercises with South Korea, which the North has long sought.
Despite the lack of detail in the summit agreement, Trump stressed at a news conference afterward that he trusted Kim to follow through. He returned to Washington early on Wednesday and hailed the meeting, the first between a sitting U. president and a North Korean leader, as a major win for American security.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is charged by Trump with leading follow-on negotiations, said the US hoped to achieve “major disarmament” by North Korea within the next 2-1/2 years.
Democratic lawmakers pointed out that North Korea had often made similar statements in the past about “denuclearization,” all the while developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that could be capable of striking the US.
“One trip and it’s ‘mission accomplished,’ Mr. President? North Korea still has all its nuclear missiles, and we only got a vague promise of future denuclearization from a regime that can’t be trusted,” said Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
Trump also downplayed concerns about Kim’s human rights record. In an interview with Fox News broadcast on Wednesday, Trump said: “A lot of other people (have) done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”