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Republicans remain skeptical despite Trump's boasts of breakthrough with North Korea's Kim

Eli Stokols, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Republicans in Congress expressed uncharacteristic skepticism on Tuesday about President Donald Trump's claim that his summit with Kim Jong Un opened "a new history," noting that the first-ever meeting between U.S. and North Korean leaders yielded few tangible commitments toward denuclearization, and a significant American concession.

"Should be skeptical of any deal with #KJU," Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted, sounding a common note about Kim Jong Un.

"Limits to future strategic weapons instead of eliminating current program not an acceptable outcome. Hope I'm wrong but still believe they will never give up nukes & ICBM's unless (they) believe failure to do so triggers regime ending reaction."

While Trump sought to portray the meeting in Singapore as a personal victory, skeptics passing judgment in social media and on cable television said North Korea's Kim was the bigger winner simply by getting a U.S. president to share the world stage with him, something prior North Korea leaders -- his father and grandfather -- had not been able to extract because of their repressive records and broken promises.

Trump's typically obsequious GOP allies quickly expressed doubts that Kim would keep his vague promises this time as well, and objected that the president had so soon agreed to suspend longstanding U.S.-South Korea military exercises in the region.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), typically an ardent supporter of the president, said he was "surprised" and "troubled" by Trump's decision to end military exercises. "Coordination with the South Korean military is absolutely critical," he told reporters at the Capitol.

Republicans also took issue with Trump's effusive praise for Kim. Among other compliments, the president called Kim "very talented" in running his country -- a nation that the United Nations, human rights groups and past American administrations have characterized as a prison state.

Rubio, in another tweet, countered that while Trump was "trying to butter him up to get a good deal," Kim "is NOT a talented guy. He inherited the family business from his dad & grandfather. He is a total weirdo who would not be elected assistant dog catcher in any democracy."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has forged a working relationship with the president after initial feuding, was more positive. He voiced optimism that Trump could get Kim to follow through on his promise to end his country's nuclear weapons program, though Graham acknowledged that the details still to be negotiated will be more telling than the photo-ops and brief communique in Singapore.

"Here's what I would tell President Trump: I stand with you ... but anything you negotiate with North Korea will have to come to the Congress for our approval," Graham said on NBC's "Today" show.

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