Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said on Tuesday that while negotiations with North Korea are ongoing, the United States must continue its maximum pressure campaign on the regime.
“In the meantime, we have to continue our campaign of maximum pressure from an economic standpoint and avoid the mistakes of past administrations of both parties in dealing with the Kim regime, which is that we don’t grant up front concessions in return for easily reversed promises,” Cotton said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt.
During this week’s summit in Singapore, Trump became the first U.S. president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean head of state. The Trump administration has pushed for North Korea to denuclearize, while promising security and prosperity in return. The joint statement Trump and Kim signed gave few details on how the two countries will move forward with denuclearization of the peninsula.
“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.
Hewitt played a clip that showed Trump saying the agreement with North Korea depends on the United States being able to verify if Kim is taking steps towards denuclearization.
“That’s the key, Hugh,” Cotton said. “Again, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating in the coming months. Heads of state don’t negotiate the technical details of a verification regime. That’ll be left up to Secretary Pompeo and other members of our national security team.”
Hewitt asked Cotton about Trump’s surprise announcement that joint-military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea would stop, and if the exercises would be back on if North Korea cheats.
“I believe that Donald Trump is going to continue the campaign of maximum pressure, and he will not grant one-sided unilateral concessions,” Cotton said. “And if Kim Jong Un reverses his commitments on a much bigger issue than trade negotiations, than what the president said about Justin Trudeau will be repeated tenfold about Kim Jong Un.”
Critics of the summit argue Trump giving Kim a face-to-face meeting will legitimize the dictator without any serious concessions from the dictator. Cotton, who was a vocal critic of former President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba and Iran nuclear deal, said Trump’s meeting with Kim is different.
“There is a school of thought that the United States should not sit down, that the United States president should not sit down with two-bit dictators. I think there’s some validity to that school of thought, with an exception once those dictators have nuclear weapons,” Cotton said. “You know, countries like Iran and Cuba and other two-bit rogue regimes don’t have nuclear weapons, yet. They can’t threaten the United States in that way.”
“Once North Korea had nuclear weapons, once they have missiles that can deliver them to us, I would liken it to past presidents sitting down with Soviet dictators. It’s not something that we should celebrate. It’s not a pretty sight. But it’s a necessary part of the job to try to protect Americans from a terrible threat,” Cotton added.