WASHINGTON - Democratic congressional leaders blasted President Trump on Tuesday for granting concessions to North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in exchange for a deal to work toward "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula' that offered scant details on how to achieve it.
As Republican leaders reacted with cautious optimism, Democrats said Trump gave up leverage by meeting with Kim and by agreeing so quickly to halting joint U.S. military "war game" exercises with South Korea. Trump announced the concession after the historic meeting in Singapore, calling the exercises "tremendously expensive' and "very provocative' to North Korea.
"What the United States has gained is vague and unverifiable at best,' said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "What North Korea has gained, however, is tangible and lasting. By granting a meeting with Chairman Kim, President Trump has granted a brutal and repressive dictatorship, the international legitimacy it has long craved.'
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement, "In his haste to reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime's status quo.'
Trump said during a news conference that the U.S. will stop "war games" "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should."
While Trump agreed to cancel war games, Vice President Pence told Senate Republicans that regular readiness training and training exchanges will continue, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted on Tuesday.
"I look forward to further comment and clarification from the president when he gets here," Gardner told reporters earlier. "But the bottom line is this: We have an agreement from the North Korean leader on denuclearization. This is an incredibly important goal."
Republicans gave Trump credit for his initial steps toward peace.
As negotiations advance, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, the only acceptable outcome is "complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization."
"We must always be clear that we are dealing with a brutal regime with a long history of deceit," said Ryan, R-Wis. "Only time will tell if North Korea is serious this time, and in the meantime we must continue to apply maximum economic pressure. The road ahead is a long one, but today there is hope that the president has put us on a path to lasting peace in the Korean peninsula."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hopes the negotiations result in a treaty.
"Which route the administration takes will be up to them but I do believe they'll need to come to Congress in some form," he told reporters.
After hours of talks, the joint statement said that Trump "committed to provide security guarantees" to the North Korean government, while Kim "reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." It did not define "security guarantees," nor what "complete denuclearization" entails.
Similar agreements in the past have not lasted.
Trump called the meeting "the beginning of an arduous process,' and said he will invite Kim to the White House "at the appropriate time.'
Addressing criticism that he gave up too much, Trump said "I gave up nothing' other than agreeing to a meeting. North Korea, along with committing to complete denuclearization, released three American hostages last month and committed to repatriating the remains of U.S. service members believed to be buried in North Korea, he said. Trump also said North Korea has halted nuclear and missile testing, and though it's not in the agreement, he said Kim told him they will close a missile engine testing site.
Chairmen of two key House and Senate committees highlighted their oversight role and said they look forward to the administration's briefing on the summit.
"Kim Jong Un has gained much from step one, including an apparent promise from the president regarding important U.S.-South Korea defensive military drills," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif. "Throughout, we must press Beijing and others to continue complying fully with all sanctions against the North Korean regime. Kim Jong Un should not receive a dime of relief until he fully and verifiably denuclearizes.'
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., wasn't sure what to make of the summit.
"While I am glad the president and Kim Jong Un were able to meet, it is difficult to determine what of concrete nature has occurred,' said Corker.
Absent commitments, the agreement was "less of an accomplishment" than any previous deals with Pyongyang, said Sen. Bob Menendez, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top-ranking Democrat. Trump has undermined the U.S. policy of maximum pressure and sanctions "in exchange for selfies in Singapore" and "critical" defensive military exercises with South Korea "in exchange for promises to make promises."
In an earlier statement, McConnell called the meeting "an historic first step in an important negotiation' and said he supports the goals in the joint statement. He also noted that "resolving this 65-year old international challenge will take a great deal of hard work.'
"The next steps in negotiation will test whether we can get to a verifiable deal which enhances the security of North East Asia, our allies and of course, the United States,' McConnell said. "If North Korea does not prove willing to follow through, we and our allies must be prepared to restore the policy of maximum pressure.'
Contributing: David Jackson, USA TODAY
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