Trump, Kim commit to no nukes

SINGAPORE — Clasping hands and forecasting future peace, President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un committed Tuesday to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula during the first meeting in history between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Yet as Trump toasted the summit’s results, he faced mounting questions about whether he got too little and gave away too much — including an agreement to halt U.S. military exercises with treaty ally South Korea.

Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Trump and Kim came together for a summit that seemed unthinkable months ago when the two nations traded 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.”

Light on specifics, the document signed by the two leaders largely amounted to an agreement to continue discussions, as it echoed previous public statements and past commitments. It did not include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the U.S. and North Korea.

Trump, holding forth at a free-flowing news conference after Kim departed, said the North Korean leader had before him “an opportunity like no other” to bring his country back into the community of nations if he follows through on pledges to give up his nuclear program.

Trump announced that he would be freezing U.S. military “war games” with its ally South Korea while negotiations between the two countries continue. He cast the decision as a cost-saving measure, but North Korea has long objected to the drills as a security threat.

Trump acknowledged that the timetable for denuclearization is long, but said, “once you start the process it means it’s pretty much over.”

The president acknowledged that U.S. intelligence on the North Korean nuclear stockpile is limited, “probably less there than any other country,” he said. “But we have enough intelligence to know that what they have is very substantial.”

Trump brushed off questions about his public praise for an autocrat whose people have been oppressed for decades. He added that Otto Warmbier, an American once detained in North Korea, “did not die in vain” because his death brought about the nuclear talks.

And he said Kim has accepted an invitation to visit the White House — at the “appropriate” time.

The two leaders promised in their joint document to “build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula and to repatriate remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action from the Korean War.

Language on North Korea’s bombs was similar to what the leaders of North and South Korea came up with at their own summit in April. At the time, the Koreans faced criticism for essentially kicking the issue of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal down the road to Tuesday’s Trump-Kim summit. Trump and Kim even directly referenced the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, which contained a weak commitment to denuclearization and no specifics on how to achieve it.