Washington – Reaction in Congress to President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un split largely along party lines on Tuesday with the bulk of Republicans largely celebratory and Democrats saying they were concerned Kim got the better of the president.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., was one of the harshest critics of the summit.
Murphy said Trump gave Kim a gift — “a legitimizing photo op that will solidify his evil regime back home,” and received no concessions from North Korea; just a “watered down” commitment on nuclear disarmament that “breaks no new ground and is entirely consistent with existing North Korean policy.”
“I think President Trump exposed himself as an unprepared, weak negotiator yesterday, with serious negative consequences for American national security,” Murphy said. “Many people like me – historic supporters of diplomacy – are hesitant to criticize Trump’s foray into nuclear diplomacy because they fear being labeled hypocrites. But Trump is not Obama. North Korea is not Iran. And no one should hold back from continuing to savage the directionless, counterproductive foreign policy of this administration just because diplomacy, done right, is almost always worth supporting.”
Murphy introduced an amendment to a massive defense bill this week that would prohibit Trump from starting a preemptive war against North Korea without an imminent threat or express authorization from Congress.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said “talk is always better than war and diplomacy is vastly preferable to military action.” “But this summit – a symbolic spectacle – lacked real substance and assured long-term significance,” he said.
Blumenthal also said Trump made “significant concessions to North Korea without any meaningful commitments in return.”
“Suspending military exercises in South Korea and talk about American troop withdrawals seem startlingly premature, a concession that could prove damaging to relationships with critical allies,” Blumenthal said.
After spending five hours with the North Korean leader, Trump said Kim is not only “very talented” but also a “very smart negotiator” who “loves his country very much.” As proof of the young leader’s ability, Trump noted that Kim had been able to run North Korea from the age of 26, “and run it tough,” in a way that few people could.
Blumenthal said he “was appalled that President Trump spoke so positively, even fondly, of a brutal, oppressive tyrant.”
Other Democrats were more hopeful about the historic meeting.
“I commend the president for initiating this summit and I am hopeful that this leads to North Korea abandoning their nuclear aspirations and leads to peace,” said Rep. John Larson, D-1st District. “While I commend him for establishing his four points, there’s still much work to be done to build a framework. I am hopeful that this is successful, but skeptical given North Korea’s past and believe that we should further involve our allies and Congress should take an active role as well.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he commended Trump “for turning away from dangerous rhetoric and saber-rattling and toward a diplomatic effort to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.”
But he also said “the document signed today at best is an aspirational statement rather than a roadmap to nuclear- free Korea.”
Ultimately, the safety of our close allies, South Korea and Japan is paramount, along with the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the peninsula. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I would urge the president to be clear about what his administration’s goals are moving forward and provide a clear roadmap for how he believes we can achieve them.”
Before the summit, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, questioned Trump’s go-it-alone plan to seek a diplomatic understanding with North Korea. “The scale of what could happen here and the sensitivity of all of this, I think, requires more than the United States,” she said.
Christian evangelical groups in the United States, who often support Trump policies, said on Tuesday they were concerned that the summit did not touch on North Korea’s reported human right abuses or persecution of Christians.
Vice President Mike Pence went to Capitol Hill Tuesday to brief GOP congressional leaders on the president’s work in North Korea and elicit support. While many congressional Republican celebrated the summit, some were skeptical.
“This is a first step, this is a good start but we’re a long ways away from an agreement,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. told “CBS This Morning.”
Graham congratulated the president for bringing about such an “historic opportunity” to help end the Korean war and force the regime to give up its nuclear capabilities. But Graham also noted, “They’ve promised to give up their nuclear weapons, they’ve done this twice.”