GOP Lawmakers in Wait-and-See Mode After Trump-Kim Summit

President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Monday has been characterized as underwhelming across the political spectrum.

It resulted in little more than a brief written agreement that outlined a number of high-level goals, like building a “lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” and working toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean regime’s many human rights abuses went unaddressed. THE WEEKLY STANDARD editor-in-chief Steve Hayes notes that the goals included in the document don’t differ much from those of prior agreements, upon which the North Koreans have repeatedly reneged.

Republicans, responding with a mix of optimism and caution, argued that determining whether the talks had any real impact on the regime will be a waiting game.

“Only time will tell if North Korea is serious this time, and in the meantime we must continue to apply maximum economic pressure,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. “The road ahead is a long one, but today there is hope that the president has put us on a path to lasting peace in the Korean peninsula.”

Others were more enthused. In a clear overstatement, Senator John Barrasso told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “had reached an agreement to give up their nuclear weapons,” during the meeting with Trump. Perhaps to balance it out, Barrasso added an understatement to the mix: “Still working out the details there,” he said.

Details were unclear for many of his Senate colleagues as well. In fact, several senators told reporters they were unsure of what, exactly, the summit achieved. “While I am glad the president and Kim Jong-un were able to meet, it is difficult to determine what of concrete nature has occurred,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said in a statement. And with a little more frankness, he told Politico’s Burgess Everett that, “I’m not even sure what happened last night.”

Meanwhile, New York Republican Tom Reed sent a warning shot to Kim in a statement. “If Kim Jong-un throws away this opportunity, it will mean the military destruction of his country and his death,” Reed said.

Democrats, meanwhile, said Trump failed to win anything of substance, instead giving real concessions to the North Koreans. “What the U.S. has gained is vague and unverifiable at best. What North Korea has gained, however, is tangible and lasting,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech Tuesday, adding that Trump’s summit had legitimized the murderous dictator.

Trump also drew criticism for repeatedly praising Kim after the two met. The president said Kim has a good personality, is “very smart,” and that he cares about his people. Florida Republican Marco Rubio responded in a tweet:

And when asked about Trump’s assertion that the dictator cares about his people, Corker told reporters that “the president is prone to making comments of that nature with whomever he meets with.”

Trump also raised alarms by promising to end war games in the Korean Peninsula, a major concession to the North Koreans. “We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money—plus, I think it’s very provocative,” Trump said.

Corker up chalked those comments up to the president’s “tendency to say things that are ad hoc that haven’t been vetted, and sometimes those things are walked back,” according to CNN’s Manu Raju. Colorado Republican Cory Gardner later told reporters that the vice president had done just that during the GOP conference lunch Tuesday, when he told senators that the war games would continue. Pence’s office denied Gardner’s account of the meeting. But Pence was very clear, Gardner said — “regular readiness training and training exchanges will continue.”

But for now, Republicans say that measuring the summit’s success will be a waiting game.

“If you just look at history, you’d be pessimistic,” Louisiana Republican John Kennedy told reporters. “There is nothing in the history of Kim’s actions, or his dad’s, or his grandfather’s that would give us any hope. But people can change, and we’ll see.”

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