After Trump-Kim Summit Next Steps Remain Unclear

After the end of the historic Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, some in Washington remain skeptic as to how the agreed on would be accomplished as no benchmarks for progress have been set, nor follow-up meetings.

The two leaders did not agree on what success would look like, leaving bipartisan lawmakers to wonder what comes next and what the actual takeaways of the meeting are.  The extent of the confusion among lawmakers was so great that a Republican senator even posted on Twitter that the President has agreed to cease bi-annual military exercises with South Korea that he calls “war games.” However, canceling them was not mentioned in the page-and-a-half declaration the two leaders signed, and the senator was later forced to post a correction.

Kim’s state-run Korean Central News Agency published a summary of the meeting Wednesday which said that the U.S. President had agreed to lift sanctions. However, a day earlier, Trump told reporters he won’t lift sanctions on North Korea until its “complete denuclearization.”

Bruce Klingner, a former deputy division chief for Korea at the Central Intelligence Agency believes the summit presents only a small initial step. The next developments may come on Thursday when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Seoul for meetings with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts before heading to Beijing to talk with Chinese leaders.

President Trump vowed Tuesday to hold “many meetings” with Kim in the future, saying that they have established mutual trust which could help reach an agreement. The document the two signed specifies that Pompeo and a top North Korean official would also have a meeting “at the earliest possible date.”

However, Trump offered only a vague explanation of the next steps without providing any details as to how his administration will verify Kim’s actions. “We’re going to be following things. We’re going to be monitoring things. We’re dealing with him … on a constant basis,” Trump said in an ABC News interview.

Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill warn that trusting Kim could prove dangerous and should, therefore, be done care carefully and cautiously.

“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that Kim Jong-un is a butcher and he is a butcher of his own people,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said on Tuesday. “Trying to reason with someone like that is like trying to hand feed a shark. Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you’ve got to do it very, very carefully.”

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