Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s summit in Singapore with Chairman Kim Jong-Un. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:
Thank you, Madam President. Before I begin my remarks, I want to congratulate our Republican Leader on becoming the longest-serving Republican Leader in the Senate. My friend Leader McConnell reached that historic milestone today.
It is no secret that we disagree on a whole lot of issues, both political and philosophical, but that does not mean that we can’t or don’t work together, or that I don’t admire the qualities that have helped make him the longest-serving Republican leader.
He understands his caucus and represents them well. He knows how to fight, and he knows how to cooperate. The job is not an easy one, so it is a testament to his qualities that he has done it longer than anyone in the history of the Senate.
Now, on North Korea: Madam President, in the early hours of the morning, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-Un met in Singapore for the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and the leader of North Korea.
It was a welcome improvement to see the two of them having a dialogue rather than engaging in name-calling and saber rattling. Certainly, Americans feel better about talking than name-calling and threats of war, which had characterized the relationship up to now.
And though we are all rooting for diplomacy to succeed, we must be clear-eyed about what a diplomatic success with North Korea looks like. A diplomatic success would be the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Nothing less. And why do we say that? It’s not to make any political points. But a nuclear North Korea with ICBMs probably presents a greater danger to the United States, and the safety and well-being of our country, than any other in the world. So, it’s imperative that we actually get action here—not just photo-ops.
Previous negotiations have sought the same goal with good reason, and in 1994, and 2005, those negotiations yielded agreements that were in fact much more rigorous than the communique issued by President Trump and Chairman Kim. This communique lists denuclearization as a far-off goal but includes no details about a pathway to achieving it. No details about how the United States might verify that North Korea has disarmed, when they’ve repeatedly lied in the past. No detail about stopping enrichment of uranium or plutonium. No details even about the definition of complete denuclearization, which has been a main point of contention in previous negotiations.
Unfortunately, the entire document is short on details. As we have learned, in the wake of the collapse of the 1994 and 2005 agreements, North Korea is liable to backtrack on vague commitments as soon as it’s in its interest. Chairman Kim, like his father before him, has a history of backing away from agreements. There is a great fear now that Chairman Kim, having won a major concession from the United States –meeting with our President – may not go any further.
Now, as then, we must be extremely wary of this probability. When trust is lacking, it is best not to dive in head first and hope for the best, but rather to work slowly, transparently and verifiably, to build trust and lock in concessions. It is worrisome – very worrisome – that this joint statement is so imprecise.
What the United States has gained is vague and unverifiable at best; what North Korea has gained, however, is tangible and lasting.
By granting a meeting with Chairman Kim, President Trump has granted a brutal and repressive dictatorship the international legitimacy it has long craved. The symbols that were broadcast all over the world last night have lasting consequences for the United States and North Korea and for the entire region.
For the United States, it’s permanent proof that we have legitimized a brutal dictator who has starved his own people. For North Koreans, to have their flags astride those of the United States is a clear symbol that they are to be respected and that they belong among the community of nations, and that their sins at home and abroad are beginning to be forgiven. If the United States is unable to win concrete, lasting concessions from North Korea, the meeting alone will be a victory for Kim Jong-Un.
Even more troubling, only an hour ago, President Trump agreed to freeze joint military exercises with South Korea, a legal activity, in exchange for the mere hope that North Korea will freeze its illegal nuclear testing regime. Alarmingly, President Trump called our military exercises with South Korea “provocations.” That’s something North Korea would say, not South Korea or the United States.
Again, it seems the president has undercut our foreign policy by drawing a false equivalency between joint military exercises with our allies and the nuclear testing of a rogue regime.
Ultimately, if this is the result, it will have failed President Trump’s own standard. The president has said that “if North Korea doesn’t denuclearize, that will not be acceptable.” President Trump has not made much progress towards that goal yet and has given up substantial leverage already: the leverage of joint military exercises, the leverage of an audience with the President of the United States.
Imagine for a moment if a Democratic president had gone to North Korea in similar circumstances and came away with little more than a handshake and a photo-op. Imagine if a Democratic president had placed the flag of the United States next to the flag of North Korea and met a dictator on equal terms. Imagine if a Democratic president had labeled military maneuvers with our allies “provocations” of a foreign adversary. The commentators of the right wing media and indeed the entire Republican Party would be shouting grave warnings about the end of American leadership and the belittling of our country, about selling out and appeasement.
We Democrats do not see it this way. We remain supportive of American diplomatic efforts in general but are focused on very significant, substantive concerns with President Trump’s preliminary arrangement with North Korea. We want to see these efforts succeed and ensure that what just transpired was not purely a reality-show summit.
Here in the Senate, we Democrats believe that means five things:
First, North Korea must dismantle or remove every single one of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Second, North Korea must end the production and enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes, and permanently dismantle its nuclear weapons infrastructure. That means test sites, all nuclear weapons research and development facilities, and enrichment facilities have to be destroyed.
Third, North Korea must continue to suspend all ballistic missile tests. Fourth, North Korea must commit to anytime, anywhere inspections for both its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including all non-declared suspicious sites. If inspectors reveal any violation, we must be permitted to implement snap-back sanctions. And lastly, any agreement between the United States and North Korea must be permanent.
Let us hope this isn’t the final chapter in diplomacy with Pyongyang. President Trump and his team must take stock of what’s happened, what North Korea has achieved, what we have yet to achieve, and pursue again a tougher course. For the sake of our national security, our interests abroad, and the safety of the American people, the United States can settle for no less than the certifiable, permanent denuclearization of North Korea.