Jun 12, 2018, 5:01 PM ET

Republicans cautiously optimistic on potential deal with North Korea

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On the heels of a historic meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, top Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill remain skeptical that a peace agreement can ever be reached with the brutal dictator.

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Republicans are cautiously optimistic that a denuclearization treaty can be reached, but are warning Trump that Kim Jong Un is not to be trusted.

Democrats say the president has given legitimacy to a hostile regime in a meeting that mostly amounted to nothing but significant concessions to North Korea without any meaningful commitments in return.

The two senators who perhaps understand what is at stake the most: Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the chair and ranking member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I read the statement and it's difficult for me to see if something was actually agreed to or not,” Corker said. He called the agreement between Trump and Kim Jong Un nothing more than a “few sentences on a sheet of paper” that were “very aspirational.”

PHOTO: President Donald Trump gestures after a news conference following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
President Donald Trump gestures after a news conference following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018.

“I don’t think we know enough to challenge or celebrate,” Corker went on.

Menendez’s assessment of the agreement was a bit more blunt.

“I have to be honest with you. This is the weakest statement that I have ever seen come out of any engagement with North Korea, much less at the highest ranking of the president of the United States meeting with Kim Jong Un. It’s amazing,” Menendez said.

Democrats have blasted the summit as nothing but a photo op that played directly into Kim Jong Un’s hands.

“This seems to me to be more of a reality TV photo op handshake summit than a summit with a real strategy behind it,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters.

The worry among most Democrats is that the meeting has further legitimized Kim Jong Un’s brutal regime, one that is fraught with egregious human rights violations and atrocities.

"It is worrisome, very worrisome that this joint statement is so imprecise. What the US has gained is vague and unverifiable at best. What North Korea has gained is tangible and lasting. We've legitimized a brutal dictator who's starved his own people,” the Senate’s top Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

In a statement, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., slammed Trump for his apparent display of affection towards the North Korean leader.

"I was appalled that President Trump spoke so positively, even fondly, of a brutal, oppressive tyrant. He elevated Kim to legitimacy on the world stage, when he deserves condemnation as a human rights pariah," Blumemthal said.

The friendly language seemingly rubbed GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida the wrong way, too.

"One more thing about KJU. While I know @potus is trying to butter him up to get a good deal, #KJU 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 said in a tweet.

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Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement the ramifications of meeting with Kim Jong Un will have "serious negative consequences for American national security," and it exposed Trump as an “unprepared, weak negotiator.”

But many Republicans have come to the president’s defense, and have offered a measured response to Trump for accomplishing what no other president in recent history has been able to achieve.

And, they are cautiously optimistic that North Korea will eventually denuclearize.

“There's certainly nothing in the history of Kim Jong Un or his father or his grandfather that would demonstrate we should be optimistic, but having said, that you've got to try,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said.

Republican senators have suggested that the lack of detail in the agreement was not unexpected, and that the summit was mainly a “first step” in a series of negotiations.

“At the end of the day, Kim Jong Un’s going to have to make a decision. Does he believe he's safer and more prosperous without nuclear weapons than he is with them? And that depends on how he views Trump,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters.

But there is wide spread agreement among both Republicans and Democrats that the US must maintain its pressure campaign on North Korea until the denuclearization demands are met and verified.

And that means ending the so-called “war games” or military exercises with South Korea, as Trump suggested, is not an option that should be considered in the immediate future.

“I think sometimes the president has a tendency to stand up and say things that haven't been vetted, and sometimes those things are walked back after he's had conversations with people that are relevant to what he said,” Corker said.

Corker said going forward, the U.S. should leave the rest of the negotiating to the “professionals” who truly understand what is at stake.

“The work now will be probably done by the professionals who deal with these issues on a daily basis,” Corker said.

Corker said he is hopeful that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will debrief senators in the coming weeks so they can find out what really went on behind closed doors.

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  • Hunter

    Greedy, narcissistic Trump got played - epically. NK has agreed to de-nuclearisation before and always reneged. They are liars and they will never get rid of their nukes. Trump wants to put his hotels in NK. Money in his greedy pocket.

  • jimfromkcj

    Whether we continue the war games or not matter little if and when we go to war with North Korea. Those plans go out the window at the first shot in any war. So why not give peace a chance? The jackass democrats have never negotiated from a position of strength as Trump is doing. Kim and his backers are crapping in their depends because they have no idea how Trump will react if they ever start a war. He might leave the north a pile of ash. We will never have to go to war if the other side is not sure of a knock out the first strike because our retaliation would be monstrous and massive.

  • Jim Stovall

    North Korea state run media reports that Kim said that Trump agreed to lift sanctions. And Trump run media (Fox News) reports that Kim agreed to get rid of his nukes. We have 2 liars and an agreement that says nothing. I hope lunch was good.

  • Henry Miller

    "Republicans are cautiously optimistic that a denuclearization treaty can be reached, but are warning Trump that Kim Jong Un is not to be trusted."

    And I expect that Kim knows Trump can't be trusted either, and Trump has all the aces.

  • Treblig56

    Republicans are cautiously optimistic that a denuclearization treaty can be reached, but are warning Trump that Kim Jong Un is not to be trusted.
    Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un does not need to be warned, he already knows the 'Orange One' can't be trusted, much less believed.

  • Yippe Kiyay

    Not sure how many Republicans or Democrats have earned the right to advise President Trump in this matter. Trump owns this, not the backstabbers and accusers.

  • Erwin Schrodinger

    Don't worry of you cannot trust Kim... you can't trust Trump either.

  • WhoIsThis

    epublicans a... are warning Trump that Kim Jong Un is not to be trusted.
    Kim Jong-un is probably more trustworthy than Donald J Trump, but that is one very low bar.
    Just ask our former allies.

  • fmd160

    He elevated Kim to legitimacy on the world stage, when he deserves condemnation as a human rights pariah," Blumemthal said.

    Does he really believe that the rest of the leaders in the world will recognize KJU as a legitimate leader? I think most of them have already laughed off such a notion. Just because Trump says anything doesn't make it so.

  • mm

    It's so funny because Iran warned KJU he cannot trust Trump either. Both cannot be trusted as the world watches on lol.

  • Richard Hylton

    Look Who's Talking. The feckless phartz, would like to find a distinction or difference between the two Great Leaders.

  • David

    Republicans expressed optimism and caution with Paul Ryan stating today “We must always be clear we are dealing with a brutal regime with a long history of deceit” and then he went on to talk about Kim Jong Un.

  • Peppapeace

    Trump trusts Kim Jong Un but not Trudeau? Really?? Our country is in trouble.

  • Alex Ross

    The same cowardly GOP should warn Trump that -Trump - is just as untrustworthy and dangerous as Kim.

  • Bernard Sandan

    Lindsey Graham was a loser, is a loser,will be a loser, he's a Trump hater like his buddy McCain.
    His opinions does not matter, he's a Trump critic.

  • ryanwiwb

    You Republicans do know that you are responsible for putting Trump in as President.