Following his historic sitdown with the leader of North Korea and promises of denuclearization, a confident President Trump said Tuesday that he’s ready to tackle another American enemy with nuclear ambitions.
Trump, weeks after he began dismantling his predecessor’s arrangement to end Iran’s nuclear program, says he’s ready to forge a “real deal” with Tehran.
The President withdrew the U.S. from the multi-national Obama-era Iran nuclear agreement last month, but has offered little in the way of an alternative.
Experts expressed reservations when asked about Trump’s ambitions, pointing to the clear objectives and details of the erstwhile Iran deal when compared to the ambiguous nature of the agreement between Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Turning decades of U.S. defense posturing on its head, Trump announced he was halting annual U.S.-South Korean military drills — and said he wants to remove the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea — as Kim promised to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Trump offered dew details about how verification of denuclearization will take place.
It’s difficult to even compare such imprecise promises with former President Barack Obama’s Iran deal, experts said.
The Iranian agreement “had a lot of elements that are going to be very, very difficult to get to with North Korea now,” Michael Mazarr, senior political scientist at RAND Corporation, told the Daily News. “It’s hard to compare because we don’t have an actual deal to compare it to.”
While the Iranian nonproliferation agreement centered on the country’s nuclear program, Tehran always insisted that it was meant for civilian use, whereas North Korea openly boasted about developing nuclear weapons and even made targeting the U.S. a goal.
North Korea’s program is assumed to be far more advanced than that of Iran, but it’s difficult to say because of the secrecy surrounding the country. Additionally, a potential North Korea deal will be hampered by the time it takes to figure out where the nation has been developing its nuclear capabilities. Mazarr noted that in the late 1990s, the country had just one major nuclear facility, but there are now several sprinkled throughout the country — and there might be secret ones.
“It is going to be very difficult to know, even when this process fully runs its course, that North Korea doesn’t have a bomb in the basement somewhere,” Mazarr said.
Others said Trump’s one-on-one negotiating tactic — and his stunning announcement that the U.S. is stalling joint military exercises in the region — could rub longtime allies the wrong way.
“In looking at the Iran deal process, the United States worked very closely with its negotiating partners to ensure they remained on the same page for the goals and objectives,” Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the bipartisan think tank Arms Control Association, told The News. “In the negotiations with North Korea, the United States must do a better job coordinating with partners and allies in the region.”
Tehran reacted to the vague talk of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula on Tuesday with a stern warning to Kim that Trump can’t be trusted.
“We don’t know what type of person the North Korean leader is negotiating with. It is not clear that he would not cancel the agreement before returning home,” Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht was quoted as saying by IRNA new agency.
“This man does not represent the American people, and they will surely distance themselves from him at the next elections,” he added.
Trump, meanwhile, pushed back on criticism that the U.S.is getting little in return for his meeting with Kim. Trump told reporters at a news conference in Singapore Tuesday that he “gave up nothing.”
He added that “it’s not a big deal” for world leaders to meet with the President of the United States.
Davenport said that Trump was downplaying his own desire to be seen meeting with Kim on the world stage.
“Trump wanted a big spectacle and he was more concerned with the optics of the summit, not the substance,” she said.
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