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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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In Vietnam, Donald Trump rekindled his relationship with the autocratic leader of North Korea as the two men prepared for what would be the final, and hopefully, more substantive day of their second face-to-face summit.
But half a world away, Trump had jetted off to his meeting with Kim Jong Un leaving behind a ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confused, and frankly concerned, about Trump’s approach to diplomacy with Kim, known as the brutal leader of an incredibly isolated and poor nation.
The Trump/Kim summits–which began last year in Singapore with the historic first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president–are ostensibly to work to an agreement whereby North Korea abandons its ambition to be a nuclear power. North Korea has been developing an increasingly potent military nuclear capability for the past several decades.
Trump and Kim initially agreed to meet only after the pair traded insults. Trump called Kim “Rocket Man,” in apparent reference to the missiles North Korea would test-fly in an apparent show of strength. Kim, in turn, referred to Trump as a “dotard.”
The two men apparently have put that former animosity behind them.
“I’m somewhat puzzled,” said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, top Democrat on the foreign affairs panel. “Look, we all recognize that diplomacy is the way to solve the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula. So we all encourage discussions. But for a summit meeting to take place, you expect to see concrete progress on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Cardin made his remarks during a segment on CNN a few days before Trump left for his trip.
However, that first summit in Singapore “produced virtually no results in regards to denuclearization.,” Cardin says.
“The first step on denuclearization is acknowledgment and statement of the nuclear program in the North, you need to have that assessment, need to have international inspectors, you need a game plan in order to denuclearize. We didn’t see that after Singapore,” he adds.
“I hope what we see after the Hanoi summit is a concrete acknowledgment of North Korea’s nuclear programs, we’ll have an opportunity for international inspectors, and specific game plan how they’ll achieve denuclearization,” he says.