Most members of Ohio’s congressional delegation – and a candidate hoping to join it — expressed cautious optimism about the historic summit Tuesday between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Claiming success at their whirlwind summit, Trump and Kim left Singapore Tuesday, praising their face-to-face progress toward ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said, “I have long called for a direct dialogue between our two countries. I have also supported the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un with the goal of achieving a peaceful solution that includes North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. I am hopeful that the negotiations can achieve these goals. In the past, however, North Korea has used talks to stall while continuing its nuclear and missile programs, and empty promises cannot buy any more time.
Portman, a Republican from Cincinnati, added, “For nearly 18 months I worked to help secure the release of Otto Warmbier. Nearly one year ago, I joined Fred and Cindy Warmbier in Cincinnati as they welcomed Otto home from North Korea, and it’s a constant reminder to me about the evil nature of this regime. Following this historic summit I remain skeptical but hopeful that this new dialogue can translate into meaningful progress. I strongly believe that the president’s maximum pressure campaign must remain in place until North Korea truly changes course and ends its dangerous nuclear weapons program.”
Portman’s counterpart in the senate, Democrat Sherrod Brown, said, “We all want these negotiations to succeed, and I’m glad the president had a positive meeting with Kim Jong Un. But we’ve heard empty promises from the North Koreans before, so we must continue to hold them accountable with tough sanctions until we see proof the North Koreans are taking real steps to dismantle their nuclear weapons program.”
Brown’s opponent in the November election, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-16th Dist.), said via Twitter, “I applaud @realDonaldTrump for spearheading the US’ participation in the #SingaporeSummit. However, this is just the beginning of negotiations, & we must never waiver on our demand for the 100% verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-2nd Dist.), said, “I look forward to a full readout from the administration of President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un in a thorough briefing upon the president’s return. I commend President Trump for achieving an historic diplomatic breakthrough with a longtime adversary, however, we must remain firm and resolute moving forward.”
Wenstrup added, “Throughout this process, we cannot ignore North Korea’s violations of human rights and human decency, and ensure that sanctions remain until North Korea denuclearizes. We must also remember Otto Warmbier and pray for his family. As President Trump stated, Otto’s well-known sacrifice aided in this new hope for denuclearization and the possibility of peace between our nations.”
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-15th Dist.) said the summit was “a positive step forward in the effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.”
Rep. Mike Turner (R-10th Dist.) tweeted he was “cautiously optimistic that this summit was a step towards making the world safer. However, I continue to remain skeptical about Kim Jong-Un’s commitment to denuclearization.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-4th Dist.), congratulated Trump on Twitter, adding, “this is an important step towards greater peace and prosperity for the whole word.”
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-13th Dist.) said, “Diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy. Backed by a strong military, diplomacy is essential to our efforts to build a safer, more prosperous world. That diplomacy, however, must be carried out wisely and in cooperation with our allies. I share the administration’s goals of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the North Korean regime.”
But Ryan expressed dismay over Trump’s overtures to Kim, adding, “Regrettably, it seems that we have nothing today to show for our efforts other than a toothless statement and the same promises that the North Korean regime has already given and broken many times over to previous presidents. On the other side, the North Koreans were given legitimacy on the world stage, and a compulsive assurance from President Trump that the U.S. would suspend joint military exercises with South Korea… I feel no discomfort expressing my unease at the flowery language the president used again and again with Kim Jong-Un, who is perhaps the world’s worst human rights abuser, just days after disrespecting some of our closest allies.”
Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Trump and Kim had come together for an unprecedented U.S.-North Korea meeting that seemed unthinkable months earlier when the two nations traded insults and nuclear threats. The gathering of the two unpredictable leaders marked a striking gamble by the American president to grant Kim long-sought recognition on the world stage in hopes of ending the North’s nuclear program.
Both leaders expressed optimism throughout roughly five hours of talks, with Trump thanking Kim afterward “for taking the first bold step toward a bright new future for his people.” Kim, for his part, said the leaders had “decided to leave the past behind” and promised: “The world will see a major change.”
Soon, Kim was on a plane headed home, while a clearly ebullient Trump held forth for more than an hour before the press on what he styled as a historic achievement to avert the prospect of nuclear war. Along the way, Trump tossed out pronouncements on U.S. alliances, human rights, and the nature of the accord that he and Kim had signed.
Then he was off to Guam on the way back to the U.S.
The details of how and when the North would denuclearize appear yet to be determined, as are the nature of the unspecified “protections” Trump is pledging to Kim and his government.
During his press conference, Trump acknowledged that denuclearization won’t happen overnight. But he contended, “Once you start the process it means it’s pretty much over,” an analysis that has proven faulty in the past despite inspection efforts.
Light on specifics, the Singapore accord largely amounts to an agreement to continue discussions, echoing previous public statements and commitments. It does not, for instance, include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the U.S. and North Korea.
Nor does it include a striking concession by Trump, who told reporters he would freeze U.S. military “war games” with ally South Korea while negotiations between the U.S. and the North continue. Trump cast that decision as a cost-saving measure, but also called the exercises “inappropriate” while talks continue. North Korea has long objected to the drills as a security threat.
It was unclear whether South Korea was aware of Trump’s decision before he announced it publicly. U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement Tuesday it was unaware of any policy change. Trump phoned South Korean President Moon Jae-in after leaving Singapore to brief him on the discussions.