Congressional delegation not sold on Trump’s diplomacy

WASHINGTON — Apart from a few perfunctory words of praise for President Trump meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation saw little to like in the aftermath of the historic summit in Singapore.

“Many people like me — historic supporters of diplomacy — are hesitant to criticize Trump’s foray into nuclear diplomacy,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nevertheless, “no one should hold back from continuing to savage the directionless, counterproductive foreign policy of this administration just because diplomacy, done right, is almost always worth supporting.”

Trump hailed his first-ever meeting between a U.S. president and North Korean leader as “a great moment in the history of the world.”

“People thought this could never take place,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “It is now taking place. It’s a very great day.”

“We have a long way to go, but I applaud the president for keeping the conversation going,” said Rep. Jim Himes, a member of the House intelligence committee. “That’s important.”

But Himes criticized Trump for “not highlighting the monstrous behavior of the North Korean regime and praising someone who could only be described as a murderer.”

Asked by a reporter whether he brought human rights up with Kim Jong Un, Trump replied: “Yes, it was discussed. It will be discussed more in the future.”

After the meeting, the White House issued a joint statement agreed to by Trump and the North Korean leader that covered improved relations, lasting peace, recovery of POW/MIA remains from the Korean War, and commitment to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump said in response to a question that “Yeah, we’ll be verifying” North Korean compliance with whatever denuclearization deal emerges.

Inspectors will be drawn from both U.S. and international ranks, he said.

The president raised some eyebrows by announcing the U.S. would no longer participate in military exercises with its South Korean allies, calling them “expensive,” “provocative” and “inappropriate.”

He also said that while he ultimately wants to withdraw the 32,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, “that’s not part of the equation right now.”

Trump said he won a commitment from Kim Jong Un to destroy a missile engine testing site. Neither agreement was among the four points in the joint communique.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the summit a “a symbolic spectacle.”

“Without a firm timeline or verification guarantee for denuclearization, the pomp and circumstance of yesterday’s summit cannot secure a lasting and stable peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “Suspending military exercises in South Korea and talk about American troop withdrawals seem premature, a concession that could prove damaging to relationships with critical allies.”

Murphy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro criticized Trump for dissing America’s closest allies at the G-7 summit in Canada before rushing off to Singapore to embrace a historic foe.

“Insulting our allies diminishes our leadership in the world,” DeLauro said. “Diplomacy remains the only route to resolve the tension between the United States and North Korea, given the inherent risks of using military force.”

On Monday, Murphy introduced an amendment to the defense-authorization bill that would prohibit Trump from starting a preemptive war against North Korea without an imminent threat or express authorization from Congress.