AP FACT CHECK: Trump distorts NKorea aim to ‘denuclearize’
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump and his aides are leaving a false impression about the extent of North Korea’s plans to give up its nuclear weapons.
They say North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has basically agreed to “denuclearization.” In fact, Kim’s announcement Friday before summits with the U.S. and South Korea is more limited, agreeing to freeze missile and nuclear weapons tests and close one nuclear facility already believed to have been rendered unusable.
There is no mention by North Korea of full nuclear disarmament.
Meanwhile, Trump offered a shifting rationale in recent days for his firing of FBI Director James Comey and joined other Republicans in exaggerating how much simpler it will become for Americans to file their taxes next time. He also erred, though by just a hair, in claiming a historic achievement in black and Hispanic joblessness.
A look at the questionable statements:
TRUMP: “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” – tweet Sunday.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, White House counselor: “The American people certainly do like what is going on, including this president making huge strides in short order towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.” – remarks Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
THE FACTS: They’re misrepresenting the extent of North Korea’s intentions to “denuclearize,” a term that holds different meanings to the two sides. Key lawmakers also are skeptical Kim will fulfill even his limited pledge.
South Korea, set to meet North Korea this week, has said Kim has expressed genuine interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons. But the North for decades has been pushing a concept of “denuclearization” that bears no resemblance to the American definition, vowing to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its troops from the Korean Peninsula and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.
South Korea’s president has said Kim isn’t asking for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a condition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. If true, that would seem to remove a major sticking point to a potential disarmament deal.
But that still doesn’t address a North Korean arsenal that now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and developmental ICBMs created during a decades-long cycle of crises, stalemates and broken promises.
Asked what denuclearization means, White House Legislative Director Marc Short on Sunday acknowledged a fuzzy concept. “I think from our perspective, it means full denuclearization,” Short said on NBC. “No longer having nuclear weapons that can be used in warfare against any of our allies.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CNN that North Korea’s announcement should be treated with “skepticism and caution,” noting that Kim can easily reverse it. “I don’t think he said anything about denuclearizing on the front end necessarily,” Corker said.
Trump followed up his over-the-top tweet with a more cautious one, saying: “We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t – only time will tell.”