Trump claim raises eyebrows: NKorea no longer a nuke threat?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” a dubious claim following his summit with leader Kim Jong Un that produced no guarantees on how or when Pyongyang would disarm. Tempering Trump’s very upbeat assessment, his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, cautioned that the U.S. would resume “war games” with close ally South Korea if the North stops negotiating in good faith. The president had announced a halt in the drills after his meeting with Kim on Tuesday. The summit in Singapore, which marked a major reduction in tensions, yielded a joint statement that contained a promise to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, but it lacked details. That didn’t stop the president from talking up the outcome of what was the first meeting between a U.S. and North Korean leader in six decades of hostility. The Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty, leaving the two sides in a technical state of war.

“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”

While Trump was facing questions at home and among allies about whether he gave away too much in return for far too little at the summit, North Korean state media heralded claims of a victorious meeting with the U.S. president; photos of Kim standing side-by-side with Trump on the world stage were splashed across newspapers. Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat is questionable considering Pyongyang’s significant weapons arsenal. Independent experts say the North could have enough fissile material for anywhere between about a dozen and 60 nuclear bombs. Last year it tested long-range missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland, although it remains unclear if it has mastered the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead that could re-enter the atmosphere and hit its target. Freezing the regular military exercises with South Korea is a major concession to North Korea that has long claimed the drills were invasion preparations. It appeared to catch the Pentagon and officials in Seoul off guard, and some South Koreans were alarmed. Trump cast the decision as a cost-saving measure, but also called the exercises “inappropriate” while talks continue. In Japan, the prospect of canceled U.S.-South Korean drills was met with concern. “The U.S.-South Korea joint exercises and U.S. forces in South Korea play significant roles for the security in East Asia,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Wednesday. He said he planned to continue sharing the view with Washington and Seoul. The U.S. has stationed combat troops in South Korea since the end of the Korean War and has used them in a variety of drills. The next scheduled major exercise, involving tens of thousands of troops, normally would be held in August.