By LAURIE KELLMAN
WASHINGTON (AP) – Republican and Democratic leaders aren’t quite celebrating President Donald Trump’s historic meeting Tuesday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, saying the initial agreement they struck won’t mean much unless the North completely denuclearizes.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the meeting a “major first step,” in U.S.-North Korea relations, but not a decisive one if North Korea does not follow through.
“The next steps in negotiations will test whether we can get to a verifiable deal,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. He added, “We and our allies must be prepared to restore the policy of maximum pressure.”
That was echoed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said, “There is only one acceptable final outcome: complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.”
Trump didn’t offer much assurance on the question of how to confirm that North Korea had complied with any deal.
“We’re going to have to check it and we will check it,” the president told reporters aboard Air Force One for the trip back. “We’ll check it very strongly.”
That didn’t give lawmakers much confidence. They spent much of Tuesday saying they needed more information on what, exactly, happened at the historic meeting – and questioning whether Trump gave away too much.
Sen. James Risch, the Idaho Republican who chairs the Senate National Security Working Group, said Monday that expects any treaty-like agreement to be submitted to Senate. Risch said the White House has been largely in agreement on that.
The Constitution says presidents have the power, “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties,” as long as two-thirds of the senators present agree.
But Tuesday’s announcement in Singapore was framed as a joint statement between the leaders, not a treaty. Trump said negotiators would work out the details.
Lawmakers of both parties said they preferred diplomacy to the battle-by-tweet in which Trump and Kim seemed to threaten nuclear war. But they questioned what, exactly happened at their face-to-face meeting.
Some just sounded puzzled by the vagueness of the leaders’ initial agreement.
“It is difficult to determine what of concrete nature has occurred,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Democrats were openly skeptical, saying Trump had already given up some American leverage by committing to halting U.S. military exercises with treaty ally South Korea.
“President Trump has granted a brutal and repressive dictatorship the international legitimacy it has long craved,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. He pointed out that the Trump-Kim agreement does not define what denuclearization would mean. If nothing else happens, Schumer said the meeting amounts to “purely a reality show summit.”
The first U.S. responses to the dramatic meeting came as Trump and Kim headed home from Singapore. But even as he toasted the historic meeting, Trump faced questions about what he actually won and whether he gave away too much.
Not included in the agreement, for example, was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s language that the ultimate goal was the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” And Kim offered no solid promises to abandon his hard-won nuclear arsenal any time soon.
Especially for Republicans, Trump’s meeting with Kim seemed complicated given the history of North Korea’s intransience and distressing human rights record. Trump has seemed largely unconcerned about celebrating an authoritarian leader suspected of ordering the public assassination of his half brother with a nerve agent, executing his uncle by firing squad and killing U.S. college student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier, said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is “a constant reminder to me about the evil nature of this regime.”
“I remain skeptical but hopeful that this new dialogue can translate into meaningful progress,” Portman said in a statement. “I strongly believe that the president’s maximum pressure campaign must remain in place until North Korea truly changes course and ends its dangerous nuclear weapons program.”
At least one Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took a harsher stance.
“While I know @potus is trying to butter him up to get a good deal, #KJU is NOT a talented guy,” Rubio tweeted. “He inherited the family business from his dad & grandfather. He is a total weirdo who would not be elected assistant dog catcher in any democracy.”
Associated Press Writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.