Trump Team Sees ‘Major Disarmament’ of North Korea in 2.5 Years

A day after President Trump’s landmark meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore, the two leaders and their governments sought to shape the understanding of their talks to their advantage. But the contours of the vague agreement remained unclear and open to divergent interpretations.

North Korea’s state-controlled news media said that Mr. Trump had agreed to a phased, “step by step” denuclearization process rather than the immediate dismantling of its nuclear capability, with the United States providing reciprocal benefits at each stage along the way. Mr. Trump has previously insisted that he will not lift sanctions until North Korea has rid itself of its nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration, for its part, insisted that the general wording of the joint statement signed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim committed North Korea to an intrusive inspection regime to confirm its “complete denuclearization.” The statement itself, however, did not explicitly use the words “verifiable” or “irreversible” that had been part of the mantra of American officials leading up to the Singapore summit meeting.

“Let me assure you that the ‘complete’ encompasses ‘verifiable’ in the minds of everyone concerned,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters in Seoul, where he flew to consult with South Korean officials. “One can’t completely denuclearize without validating, authenticating — you pick the word.”

When a reporter pressed and asked for more details about how it would be verified, Mr. Pompeo grew testy. “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous,” he said.

.. “Just landed — a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

“Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea,” he added. “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer — sleep well tonight!”

.. critics who accused him of getting way ahead of what could be a long, difficult negotiation to translate the gauzy aspiration of Singapore into a workable plan.

.. “The true test of success is whether the follow-on negotiations can close the gap between the United States and North Korea on the definition of denuclearization and lay out specific, verifiable steps that Pyongyang will take to reduce the threat posed by its nuclear weapons.”

.. the North Korean news agency said the two leaders had agreed to a phased process in which Pyongyang would bargain away its nuclear arsenal in stages, securing matching actions from the United States at each step. Such a process has been opposed by American hard-liners like John R. Bolton, now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who has argued in the past that the North must quickly dismantle and ship out its nuclear weapons program in its entirety, as Libya did more than a decade ago.

.. Mr. Pompeo declined to discuss the North Korean report. “I’m going to leave the content of our discussions as between the two parties, but one should heavily discount some things that are written in other places,” he said.