US Democrats to Trump: Don't spoil historic opportunity with N. Korea

US Democrats on Monday urged President Donald Trump not to squander the "historic" opportunity of a face-to-face summit with North Korea's leader, as the lawmakers opposed any easing of sanctions without complete and verifiable denuclearization.

Affirming their support for Trump's scheduled June 12 meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, seven influential Democrats including Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Trump against signing a deal at any cost, and laid out conditions they want met before any agreement is struck.

"As we approach what could be a historic summit I'm concerned that the president lacks a real strategy in place on North Korea and risks squandering a potentially historic opportunity, putting our security and that of our allies at risk," Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.

Schumber added: "We're all hoping the president will succeed in rooting for peace. We very much hope that he'll be able to achieve a lasting and strong agreement.

"But the president needs to be willing to walk away from the table if there isn't a good deal to be had, and he also needs to be willing to take the time to construct a good deal."

In a letter to Trump, the lawmakers wrote that any pact explicitly or implicitly giving Pyongyang sanctions relief without verification of its obligations to dismantle its nuclear and missile arsenal "is a bad deal."

Topping their demands is the elimination of "all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from North Korea."

Democrats also called on the White House to engage Congress throughout the diplomatic process, and stressed that were the Trump administration to start "veering off course" and sign an unsatisfactory deal, Republican and Democratic lawmakers would act.

"The president has a lot of flexibility when it comes to sanctions but it is always possible for Congress to pass mandatory sanctions or to pass laws to prevent the president from being able to use his waiver authority," Schumer said.

The White House said its advance team featuring military and security staff was already on the ground in Singapore "finalizing preparations" for the summit.

First Trump-Kim meeting scheduled for June 12
Washington (AFP) June 4, 2018 - The White House said on Monday that a first meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place at 9:00 am (0100 GMT) in Singapore on June 12.

"We are actively preparing for the June 12th summit between the president and the North Korean leader," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in announcing the timing of the meeting.

"We feel like things are continuing to move forward, and good progress has been made."

Sanders said that the White House "advance team" -- which features military, security, technical and medical staff -- were already on the ground in the Southeast Asian state.

They are "finalizing preparations and will remain in place until the summit begins," said Sanders.

She added that Trump is getting daily briefings on North Korea in the runup to the landmark meeting.

"I can tell you the president has been receiving daily briefings on North Korea from his national security team," said Sanders.

Experts have voiced concern that despite Trump's claim to be the world's greatest dealmaker, he knows little about North Korea, arms control or international diplomacy.

The on-again-off-again summit is expected to focus on US efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

The oppressive regime is believed to have developed a miniaturized nuclear device that could be placed on a missile that could strike the United States.

Washington has called that unacceptable and demanded North Korea embark on full and verifiable denuclearization.

With days to go before the meeting, it remains unclear whether Pyongyang is willing to take that step, or whether it is using the promise of talks as a way of easing Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign.

Trump last week said he no longer wanted to use that term and indicated that he was willing to embark on a lengthy series of talks that would ease pressure on the regime.

"I think it'll be a process," he said after welcoming top official Kim Yong Chol to the White House.

"It's not -- I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it's going to be a process. But the relationships are building, and that's a very positive thing."

Trump also said that there would be no new sanctions while the talks are taking place, although the White House was at pains to say existing economic sanctions will not be removed either.


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NUKEWARS
Placid Singapore braces for Trump-Kim storm
Singapore (AFP) June 1, 2018
Singapore hotel rooms are being snapped up, police are preparing to lock down the city and thousands of journalists are set to jet in for the greatest media circus on Earth - the US-North Korea summit. Top officials are scrambling to salvage the historic meeting between President Donald Trump and the North's leader Kim Jong Un planned for June 12 in the city-state. If the summit - already cancelled once by Trump before plans got back on track - does go ahead, then tiny, placid Singapore will ... read more

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