VIDEO - Sen. Chris Coons joined MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss the Singapore meeting.
Sen. Chris Coons said, “This was a dream outcome for Kim Jong Un … legitimacy on the world stage, an invitation to the White House, no concessions on human rights, and no clear concessions on a timeline or a process for denuclearization.
“For this agreement with North Korea to mean anything, for it to be anything more than a reality TV handshake summit, there’s going to need to be a lot of hard work in the months ahead and I’m concerned that the Trump Administration isn’t prepared to do that hard work,” said Coons.
On the Singapore summit:
We all have to hope and pray for our president’s success and for progress towards peace. I far prefer the photo op in Singapore to six months ago when they were hurling adolescent insults at each other and terrifying the entire world that we might promptly go to conflict. So we prefer this. Frankly, North Korea, China, Russia – they had a great week.
This was a dream outcome for Kim Jong Un, something his father and grandfather long hoped forlegitimacy on the world stage, an invitation to the White House, no concessions on human rights, and no clear concessions on a timeline or a process for denuclearization, so President Trump has secured only what two Presidents before him – one Republican and one Democrat – got, a pledge to de-nuclearize, but gave up, I think, a lot of our prestige and leadership.
How do we resurrect something from this?
Well, first the Trump Administration doesn’t yet have an assistant secretary of state for East Asia, an ambassador to South Korea. This is a moment when the weakness of the State Department, the failure to put in place key advisers I think may become a challenge because Secretary of State Pompeo is promptly going to be negotiating with North Korea under this agreement exactly how denuclearization might happen and figuring that out, figuring out the details, the timeline of verification without having sanctions against North Korea fall apart is a huge challenge.
On Kim Jong Un’s human rights violations:
Kim Jong Un is one of the world’s worst human rights violators. Later today, as the co-chair of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, I’m meeting with a group of North Korean defectors and I’ll remind you back at the State of the Union, President Trump made it clear that he understood by highlighting the case of a North Korean defector and a young American who was brutalized in North Korea’s gulag, just how dangerous a regime this is.
What’s happened in the last six months? Or what’s happened in the last 24 hours that has allowed President Trump to look in his soul and conclude that Kim Jong Un is talented, capable, and trustworthy? I don’t know.
We should instead be looking at his actual record on the ground. This reflects something that goes back to Trump as candidate, where he makes complimentary statements about dictators like Putin, Erdogan, Duterte, and in this case Kim, yet picks fights as he just did at the G-7, with our longest, oldest, closest allies, democracies, developed Western countries like Canada, Germany and the UK. I think President Trump would have been stronger going into this summit had he left the G-7 in Canada with a united declaration of support for sanctions and for our negotiating stature. Instead he left with the G-7 in disarray.
On China’s reaction:
Here’s the most important development I think this morning: China is already calling for the U.N. Security Council to lighten sanctions on North Korea. To me that is a very concerning development. Last week, I’ll remind you, President Trump and his Commerce Department had ZTE, a key Chinese telecom company over a barrel and I think let them up off the mat without getting key concessions, in particular a close partnership on confronting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
On comparisons to the Iran deal:
The Obama Administration spent years building a multilateral worldwide consensus to continue sanctions against Iran. Some criticized the Obama Administration for not using that leverage enough to get a strong enough deal. I commend them for what was a very difficult effort. My concern is that the Trump Administration really hasn’t done their homework in terms of getting our key allies and most importantly one of our potential adversaries here, China, to the table and engaged on enforcing sanctions against North Korea. It’s sanctions that got them to the table and it is continued tough sanctions that will keep them from walking away.
On the role of the Foreign Relations Committee:
The Foreign Relations Committee has a key role here, David, in making sure that we promptly confirm new nominees. We’ve got the new nominee to be South Korean ambassador, former Admiral Harris in front of us this week. We don’t have a nominee who is confirmable for the East Asia assistant secretary. We are really going to need seasoned diplomats to hammer out the details and the Senate on a bipartisan basis needs to support what progress there may be but it took years to work out the Iran nuclear verification regime, which was tough and searching and thorough. For this agreement with North Korea to mean anything, for it to be anything more than a reality TV handshake summit, there’s going to need to be a lot of hard work in the months ahead and I’m concerned that the Trump Administration isn’t prepared to do that hard work.
On legislation to ensure sanctions:
We also have legislation that I’m behind that I’m cosponsoring that continues our pressure on North Korea for its human rights violations. I’ll remind you there’s 100,000 North Koreans suffering in their gulag today. We can’t ignore that. This is a dangerous regime, a nuclear-armed regime, and the Senate has an important role to play here in supporting diplomacy but also holding this administration accountable.