Trump's claim North Korea no longer a nuclear threat raises eyebrows

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Associated Press

America and the world can "sleep well tonight," President Donald Trump declared today, boasting that his summit with Kim Jong Un had ended any nuclear threat from North Korea though the meeting produced no details on how or when weapons might be eliminated or even reduced.

While Trump claimed a historic breakthrough at the most significant diplomatic event of his presidency, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was more measured. He said that Trump's tweet was made "with eyes wide open" to the possibility diplomacy could falter, and that the US wants North Korea to take "major" nuclear disarmament steps within the next two years - before the end of Trump's first term in 2021.

And while North Korean state media had claimed that Trump and Kim agreed to "step-by-step" actions - an apparent euphemism for phased sanctions relief in exchange for phased denuclearisation - Pompeo ruled that out. He insisted that Trump had been explicit about the sequencing from the start.

"We're going to get denuclearisation," Pompeo said. "Only then will there be relief from the sanctions."

Shortly after arriving in Seoul to brief US treaty allies Japan and South Korea, Pompeo also cautioned that the US would resume "war games" with close ally South Korea if the North stops negotiating in good faith.

The president had announced a halt in the drills after his meeting with Kim on Tuesday, a concession long sought by Pyongyang but generally opposed by Seoul and Tokyo. After a three-way meeting with Pompeo and Japan's top diplomat, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha suggested the US still had some explaining to do, telling reporters that the issue of the drills "was not discussed in depth".

"This is a matter that military officials from South Korea and the United States will have to discuss further and coordinate," Kang said in Korean.

Two completely different worlds were bridged by a 12 second handshake.

Source: 1 NEWS

The summit in Singapore did mark a reduction in tensions - a sea change from last fall, when North Korea was conducting nuclear and missile tests and Trump and Kim were trading threats and insults that stoked fears of war. Kim is now promising to work toward a denuclearised Korean Peninsula.

But the details of what is sure to be a complex and contentious process have yet to be settled.

Despite the uncertainties, Trump talked up the outcome of what was the first meeting between a US and North Korean leader in six decades of hostility. The Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty, leaving the two sides in a technical state of war.

"Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office," Trump tweeted early Wednesday local time (Thurs NZT). "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!"

Pompeo said the brief, four-point joint statement that emerged from the summit did not encapsulate all the progress the US and North Korea had made. He said negotiations would recommence "in the next week or so".

He bristled at questions from reporters about the vague wording of the statement where North Korea "commits to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" - a promise it has made several times before in the past 25 years and reneged on. Although Trump before the summit had insisted on "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearisation, the deal he signed with Kim made no mention of those last two conditions.

Irrelevant, Pompeo argued today in Seoul, noting that because the deal makes reference to a previous agreement that did include verification, it automatically "incorporates" verification without having to state it outright.

Today, the rival Koreas held rare high-level military talks to discuss reducing tensions across their heavily fortified border. It's possible North Korean officials will seek a firm commitment from the South on stopping its military drills with the United States.

Trump's claim that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat is questionable considering Pyongyang's significant weapons arsenal.

Independent experts say the North could have enough fissile material for between about a dozen and 60 nuclear bombs. Last year it tested long-range missiles that could reach the US mainland, although it remains unclear if it has mastered the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead that could re-enter the atmosphere and hit its target.


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