WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump defended his denuclearization efforts with North Korea Tuesday, despite the concerns of U.S. intelligence officials who say there is no evidence Kim Jong Un plans to give up his nuclear weapons programs.
"Many good conversations with North Korea – it is going well!" Trump tweeted Tuesday, noting that Kim's government has not conducted rocket launches or nuclear tests in eight months.
"All of Asia is thrilled," Trump said. "Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!"
U.S. intelligence officials, however, are telling reporters that North Korea continues to develop nuclear missile programs, research facilities, launch capabilities, and fuel production, despite Kim's pledge to denuclearize during his June summit with Trump in Singapore.
"All of these actions call into question North Korea’s sincerity to denuclearize," said Olivia Enos, a policy analyst with the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., who was in Singapore for the Trump-Kim summit.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to travel Thursday to North Korea to speak with Kim about denuclearization. One of his goals: A declaration of specific steps North Korea can take to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. U.S. and North Korean officials are holding meetings on the same topic.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration would not "confirm or deny any intelligence reports" on North Korea's nuclear programs, but "what I can tell you is that we're continuing to make progress."
Trump and his aides have also held out the possibility of a second presidential meeting with Kim later in the year, though they are making no promises at this point.
Possible venues for a second meeting would be on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September in New York City, or at an Asian economic summit back in Singapore in November.
The State Department said Pompeo's trip to Pyongyang is designed "to continue consultations and implement the forward progress made by President Trump and Chairman Kim in Singapore."
The United States is offering to lift economic sanctions on North Korea if it follows through on getting rid of its nuclear program. But the Trump administration remains cautious; it renewed North Korean sanctions last month even after Trump's praise for his agreement with Kim in Singapore.
After signing the brief, general agreement in which North Korea pledged to denuclearize, Trump proclaimed that the rogue nation was no longer a nuclear threat. "Sleep well tonight!" Trump tweeted as he arrived back in Washington, D.C., after the Singapore summit.
Analysts were and are skeptical, given North Korea's history of backtracking on previous denuclearization pledges.
"Trump has oversold the Singapore summit outcomes and there is some hard work ahead," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association.
Calling denuclearization "as much a political process as a technical one," Kimball also said, "it won’t happen fast, but it can happen."
As the U.S. seeks "verifiable commitments" from North Korea that it is getting rid of nuclear weapons, Enos said, "the U.S. should continue to proceed with caution, recognizing who it is dealing with: a brutal dictator with a terrible track record of human rights abuses and an equally bad track record in keeping his word."