Governor Bill Richardson Testifies on Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit
Today the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation held a hearing with Bill Richardson, the former Governor of New Mexico and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Victor Cha, the former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, to preview President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s summit. Both Governor Richardson and Dr. Cha have extensive experience negotiating with the North Korean regime.
In the hearing, Congressman Brad Sherman, the Chairman of the Subcommittee, blasted President Trump’s handling of the North Korea negotiations, arguing “we have made massive concessions, while getting nothing in return that makes us safer. Nothing.” Congressman Sherman argued that Bill Richardson’s negotiations with the North Koreans had been far more successful for the United States than Donald Trump’s. Perhaps Bill Richardson “should write a book called The Art of the Deal,” Congressman Sherman quipped.
In 2017, President Donald Trump engaged in bellicose rhetoric that was matched by North Korea. Trump has stopped the extreme rhetoric, but Congressman Sherman argued “dialing things up and then dialing things back is hardly a great accomplishment.” President Trump has regularly cited North Korea’s lack of nuclear and missile testing as a crowning achievement of his administration. But, as Congressman Sherman pointed out, North Korea has stopped testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for far longer periods of time in the past, including under President Obama. What’s different now, Sherman stated, “is in the past, pauses in testing may have slowed down their program, whereas now Kim Jong-un said that he does not need any additional tests. He has already developed his hydrogen weapon and his ICBM.”
Bill Richardson was slightly more positive about the first summit, noting that it “produced a good moment for both leaders, they struck a personal relationship” and “the region is less tense” as a result. Still, Governor Richardson said “the last summit failed to produce what I think is a workable framework for negotiations”, and as a result, “following the summit the two sides did not have a roadmap on how to proceed.”
Governor Richardson said he believed the “chances that the North Koreans will get rid of their exhausting stockpiles are very slim or non-existent,” because Pyongyang believes its nuclear arsenal is “the reason we are negotiating with them and the only reason we have not overpowered them militarily.” At the same time, Governor Richardson believed the United States can expect and demand that “North Koreans cease all further development of nuclear weapons, WMDs and ballistic missiles,” “any future testing of nuclear weapons and ballistics missiles and have verification of the dismantling of launch and test sites…. [and] any proliferation of operations they have on nuclear technology and WMDs.” All this must be done in a way that is verifiable. In return, Richardson expected the North Koreans to “demand the removal of sanctions, the end of the [Korean] war, the normalization of relations, and the reduction of [the U.S.] military presence on the peninsula.”
For the Hanoi summit, Governor Richardson said he hoped to see “a detailed framework for negotiations, including timelines, terms of reference, and routine schedule of summits,” and “set times of ongoing negotiations, both working level, high level and perhaps additional presidential summits” and “terms of reference for negotiations, general guiding principles for final agreements, definitions and constraints, as well as timelines and benchmarks for the negotiating process.” Governor Richardson also emphasized the importance of seeking an “an agreed pathway to recover and repatriate remains of US serviceman.”
Dr. Victor Cha underscored the importance of pushing for human rights in the summit. “There needs to be a raising of the human rights abuses, not just humanitarian issues,” stated Dr. Cha. “The President will never realize his dream of seeing North Korea trade its missile launch pads for beachfront condominiums and casinos unless he addresses the regime’s massive human-rights abuses.”
Congressman Sherman doubted that the North Koreans would agree to full nuclear disarmament. Instead, he called on President Trump to seek a complete freeze on North Korea’s fissile material production during the summit in Hanoi this week. “We would be much safer if North Korea had a limited number of nuclear weapons that were highly monitored. If we were in that circumstance, North Korea would not be in a position to sell its fissile material or nuclear weapons. We would limit the amount of damage that they could do, and we could move ourselves to a safer position than we have now. That is certainly much better than seeing new fissile material created every day, even while the summit is ongoing.”
Other notable quotes from Congressman Sherman:
Brad Sherman: “The facts are these: when Trump took over, North Korea had yet to demonstrate a hydrogen bomb, now they have. During Trump’s presidency, the North has created enough fissile material for perhaps twenty additional bombs, perhaps eight additional bombs worth of fissile material just since the Singapore summit. I’m not sure that we are safer.”
Sherman: “Several hostages have been released by North Korea, but we have with us a witness [Bill Richardson] who was able to secure the release of four American hostages, without making concessions to the North Korean government. And, the remains of several service members have been turned over to the United States, but once again we have a witness [Bill Richardson] who did that without making any concessions. Perhaps [Bill Richardson] should write a book called The Art of the Deal.”
Sherman: “We have weakened the US-South Korea military defense capacity. During the Obama Administration, we had 3-4 major exercises per year. We have had zero major exercises with South Korea since Singapore, and there is one scheduled for the future that may or may not happen, and in any case has been scaled down. As General [Robert] Abrams, the commander of US forces in Korea stated, this suspension has led to the denigration of the readiness of our force.”