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Menendez: Trump let Kim go from 'pariah' to 'statesman'

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee speaks to CNN's Jake Tapper about the Trump-Kim summit.

Posted: Jun 13, 2018 10:39 AM
Updated: Jun 13, 2018 10:44 AM

New Jersey's Sen. Robert Menendez criticized the joint statement President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued after their summit Monday, calling it "anemic" with "very little substance on anything."

"This is the most anemic communiqué that has ever come out of a US-North Korea engagement," Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" on Tuesday afternoon. "Very little substance on anything."

He particularly criticized the statement for not including a definition of denuclearization as he said the US sees it: the irreversible, verifiable dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear arms and intercontinental ballistic missiles and related infrastructure, development systems and intercontinental ballistic missile development system.

"At least, if there had been a definition of what denuclearization means, even if it was still to be worked out as to how it would be achieved, that would have been something successful," Menendez said, "because for us, denuclearization is far different from what it means for Kim Jong Un."

Menendez said that because the statement does not include such a definition, "All we got here is a promise for more promises, and we've been down that road before," he said.

Menendez's comments followed similar remarks he had made earlier in the day.

"I have to be honest with you, this is the weakest statement I have ever seen come out of any engagement with North Korea, much less at the highest ranking of the President of the United States meeting with Kim Jong Un," Menendez said.

Menendez told Tapper he believes the summit overall was much more of a success for Kim than for Trump and the US.

"Kim Jong Un had a good summit. He went from international pariah, isolated in the world, to ultimately somebody who is now taking selfies and being talked about as if he is a statesman," Menendez said. "He went from someone who imprisons thousands of people in his country, systematically uses torture, has thousands of others hungry in his country to being lauded by the President as someone who really loves his people and it being an honor to meet him."

Menendez said that, in contrast, Trump made "big strategic gives," particularly in announcing that the US will end joint military exercises -- which the President referred to as "war games" -- with South Korea.

"He adopted the language of the North that it's 'provocative' and it's 'war games.' It's not war games. 'War games' actually feeds into what Kim Jong Un has said to the world, that this is an attempt to prepare for war against North Korea," Menendez said. "This is a defensive posture, and if you have troops in the Korean Peninsula who never trained with their counterparts, the South Korean army, how are you ever prepared for any defensive measures you might have to invoke? And what does it say to our allies in the region like Japan, particularly in sanctions and in other ways, who have to wonder whether their interests as a long-standing ally who has stood up to North Korea is going to be preserved?"

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