While Donald Trump claims that his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a major success, many observers are panning the president's performance.
“Just landed. A long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted after returning from the meeting in Singapore. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” He wrote that North Korea is “no longer the biggest and most dangerous problem,” so people in the United States and elsewhere can “sleep well tonight.”
Multiple news outlets pointed out that there is no evidence Kim intends to abandon his nuclear-weapons program. Trump and high-ranking members of his administration have insisted upon “full denuclearization,” a demand that officials in Pyongyang have consistently rejected.
After meeting for almost five hours, Trump and Kim signed an agreement in which the North Korean strongman pledged his “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” in exchange for “security guarantees” by the United States. Analysts noted that Kim did not commit to “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” which the United States has sought.
Trump claimed that Kim said he would be “destroying a major missile engine testing site.” North Korea already has reportedly dismantled another test site, though some experts maintain that the facility was no longer needed. According to Kim, his country already has the capability of striking the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon.
Trump told reporters that the supposed denuclearization “will be verified,” even though the agreement he and Kim signed featured no details about inspections. The president told ABC News that Kim “trusts me, and I trust him.”
Trump raised eyebrows when he announced that the United States and South Korea will conduct no more joint military exercises, which North Korea's state news agency has described as “war games.” Defending his decision on Twitter, the president argued that suspending the operations will “save a fortune.” The United States apparently received nothing in return for the concession.
There was no shortage of political pundits who criticized the president's statements. E.J. Dionne Jr., a columnist for The Washington Post, wrote that “many of us are automatically suspicious of everything Trump says because he … is a documented liar.”
Dionne blasted the president for declining to raise human-rights issues at the summit. Instead of challenging Kim, Trump called him a “very honorable” leader who “wants to do the right thing.” Regarding the agreement, the columnist wrote: “Mr. President, that flimsy piece of paper you signed guaranteed absolutely nothing and contained far weaker promises than those wrung out of North Korea by earlier administrations.”
Congressional Democrats also had harsh words for Trump's actions in Singapore. “We’re not against diplomacy; we’re just against bad diplomacy, and this was really bad diplomacy,” Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”
Much of the mainstream news media did not mince words in ridiculing the summit. Veteran NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell called the agreement “far less than advertised,” with “no new commitments, no timetable, no definitions.”
Richard Engel, NBC's chief foreign correspondent, remarked that Kim was “the biggest winner” of the talks. “He got the recognition with the president of the United States on a world stage, and all he had to do was sign a piece of paper reaffirming something that he has already said in the past,” Engel reported.
The diplomatic community joined in the criticism. According to Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama presidency, the agreement was “much less than a binding deal” because it was “nothing new” and “very thin.” He said the United States “gave up a lot for nothing.”
Ambassador Chris Hill, who was a member of Republican as well as Democratic administrations, wrote that the pact was “drafted in haste” without the key term “verified” or a “companion action document.”
Some congressional Republicans were not impressed, either. “Should be skeptical of any deal with (Kim),” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted. “He is NOT a talented guy. He inherited the family business from his dad & grandfather. He is a total weirdo who would not be elected assistant dog catcher in any democracy.”
Rubio and several of his GOP colleagues accused the North Korean leader of failing to keep past promises. They denounced the decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea. One of Trump's biggest supporters in the Senate, David Perdue of Georgia, said he was “surprised” and “troubled” by the move. He stressed that “coordination with the South Korean military is absolutely critical.”
On NBC's “Today” show, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned Trump: “I stand with you ... but anything you negotiate with North Korea will have to come to the Congress for our approval. Details matter.”
Another Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the summit was just “the first step in what will be a long process in the coming months.”