Summit Details Are Going To Be Key, Sen. Ben Cardin Says
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump and North Korea's leader have met, and they have made a promise. They have agreed to work towards denuclearizing the North and to work towards a stable and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. After signing an agreement with Kim Jong Un, President Trump spoke with reporters.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If I can save millions of lives by coming here, sitting down and establishing a relationship with someone who's a very powerful man who's got firm control of a country and that country has very powerful nuclear weapons, it's my honor to do it.
MARTIN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that to make this agreement binding, the administration would look for approval from Congress. For one view from Capitol Hill, we are joined now by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's on the line now from his home state in Maryland.
Senator, thanks for being here.
BEN CARDIN: Rachel, it's good to be with you. Thanks.
MARTIN: So what do you think? This has now concluded, this summit which had been hyped for weeks. Do you think it advanced the goal of denuclearizing North Korea?
CARDIN: Well, this is the beginning of a process. We certainly want it to work. Diplomacy is the way we need to proceed. We need to make sure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized. That's the objective. That's what the president has said. We've seen Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, make these commitments in the past and has not lived up to it. So it's now going to be the specifics. We have very few specifics from the summit meeting. How do we get from where North Korea is today to the Korean Peninsula not having nuclear weapons but also North Korea not having the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a short period of time that could happen without detection? So the details are going to be the key.
MARTIN: What specifically do you want to hear in terms of, in particular, verification, making sure that this agreement that North Korea has signed on to - that if they make subsequent commitments to get rid of nuclear material, that they are indeed doing it?
CARDIN: Well, it starts with a complete declaration of their nuclear program and their missile program - the ability for inspectors to see exactly what they have; to have a total freeze of their program on both nuclear and missiles; to start the removal of the nuclear materials; and a commitment as it relates to what they'll do in the future. And inspections - it has to be verified.
And in context to this, let us remember, there are many other issues in regards to North Korea before we can have a normal relationship, including their human rights violations and other behavior. So it starts with the nuclear issues, but we do not want to ignore the others.
MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that. You have been vocal about wanting President Trump to address North Korea's record on human rights. President Trump says he did, that he brought it up with Kim Jong Un today during this summit. Is that a positive sign in your opinion?
CARDIN: Well, I'm glad the president acknowledged it. But let's see the specifics. Let's see the actions. Let's see how the agreement, if there is an agreement, deals with these other issues and to make it clear that before we can have a normal relationship with North Korea, they need to address not just their nuclear programs but other issues.
MARTIN: You were one of only four Democratic senators who voted against the Iran nuclear deal back in 2015. If this deal with North Korea - if this does get a vote in Congress, what do you think the agreement needs in order to secure your vote this time around?
CARDIN: Well, it needs to be clear that it's not just the removal of the nuclear weapons but the inability of North Korea to be able to start a nuclear program. And it must also make it clear in the framework that before we give relief to North Korea - before there's sanctions relief, there must be demonstrable progress made and a clear path towards the end of its nuclear program.
MARTIN: Do you think that's actually possible? I mean, when you talk about - I mean putting an end to North Korea's nuclear program and making sure it's irreversible. I mean, what does that mean for the scientists who are already there who already have this information, this knowledge, this capacity?
CARDIN: Well, a couple of things that we can do. First of all, you have to track their entire nuclear program from beginning to end. Secondly, you need to have intrusive inspections. Third, there has to be a limit as to what type of nuclear materials they're allowed to have. Fourth, you have to deal with their delivery system, the missile programs. All that needs to be under control and under supervision and inspection. And if you do that, that's where you are. I mean, obviously, they have the technical information to put this back together again. But we need to make sure that if they try to do that, we'll be able to determine that and take action. So yes, this is possible.
MARTIN: So this is possible. So I hear you saying you believe this summit was a good thing. It is good, and it is positive that it transpired. You want more details. But the fact that it occurred at all is a positive step.
CARDIN: I think it's a good thing but recognize that Kim Jong Un has already accomplished one of his objectives, and that is international legitimacy by meeting with the president of the United States. We've got to make sure that we get, in exchange for that, real progress towards ending their nuclear program.
MARTIN: Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland.
Thanks so much for your time this morning, Senator. We appreciate it.
CARDIN: It's good to be with you. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.