WASHINGTON — We’ve seen the premiere of “Singapore.” What’s the sequel?
President Donald Trump deserves credit for doing something positive — meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in a bid to convince him to give up his nuclear bombs.
Whether the two leaders sitting down in Singapore really leads to North Korea getting rid of its nukes, it will be years until we know that answer.
Trump can claim some more praise because before the talks, Kim released three U.S. hostages as a goodwill gesture. In Singapore, Kim promised to recover the remains of U.S. troops fallen in the Korean War, hopefully resolving a long festering issue.
Trump, the reality show star president who frames issues and events as television-like episodes, has to come up with the Singapore Sequel if this meeting is to endure as truly historic.
The vague joint statement Kim and Trump signed in Singapore only “reaffirmed” Kim’s “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
That’s a reference to an April agreement between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in — seen as more symbolic than substance.
The Trump-Kim framework does not define what “denuclearization” means or commit to a timetable. Nor does the pact reveal the number of nukes North Korea has or identify a process to verify where they are hidden and how Kim plans to get rid of them.
Trump seemed most interested in the premier of “Singapore” and not the storyline for upcoming episodes.
At a press conference in Singapore — his first solo presser in more than a year — Trump vouched for Kim based on their newfound “relationship,” saying, “If Kim doesn’t live up to his promises, I may stand before you in six months and say, hey, I was wrong. I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”
Trump called Kim “talented,” and ignored that he is a murderous dictator with a string of human rights abuses at his presser. Kim has killed members of his own family and brutalized his own people, yet Trump talked as if Kim were an innocent.
“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough — I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it — he ran it. Very few people, at that age — you can take one out of ten thousand, probably, couldn’t do it,” said Trump.
Trump also surprised South Korea with his announcement that the U.S. will quit joint military training exercises with South Korea. Trump said it was getting too “expensive,” handing a major deliverable to Kim upfront when there are still many complex negotiations ahead.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq war vet, in South Korea several months ago, said in a statement nixing the exercises “without any concrete promises or plans to achieve verifiable denuclearization, is disappointing and offensive to our Armed Forces and our allies in the region.”
Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., has a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University and spent 22 years as a particle accelerator designer at Fermilab in suburban Batavia, so his comments about nuclear capability are among the best informed in Congress.
I asked Foster on Tuesday about the pact Trump and Kim signed.
“I was disappointed with the lack of any reference to two crucial things,” Foster told me.
“First, the verification regime … which will be very difficult. And secondly, (the lack of a) commitment to go to zero nuclear weapons in North Korea.
“… I will give him credit when I see the inspection regime.”
Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., had similar concerns saying in a statement, “North Korea must prove its commitment to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization and begin the process immediately.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a pilot in the Air National Guard, applauded Trump’s diplomacy as he urged caution.
Said Kinzinger in a statement, “I don’t believe we can ever trust a murderous dictator such as Kim Jong Un.”
Stay tuned for the next “Singapore.”