WASHINGTON — One of the founders of the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s said Friday that President Donald Trump has the chance to make history in “reversing the tragedy of nuclear proliferation” — but warned against believing too much of what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says and promises.
Speaking at a forum hosted by The Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., Sen. Edward Markey said it is “too early to remove the pressure” on Kim and urged that the U.S. “keep the pressure focused.
“Do not give Kim too much credit,” Markey (D-Mass.) told the forum. “We have seen this before. He seeks to market North Korea as a responsible nuclear power.”
Markey sits on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where he is the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.
Markey has been a strong critic of Trump’s approach to dealing with North Korea, often charging that Trump was gambling with nuclear war through his tweets and other belligerent actions.
Markey has repeatedly said “there might be a military option for the North Korean nuclear threat, but there is no military solution.” Last October, Markey introduced legislation that would require the president to obtain Congressional approval before a military strike on North Korea.
Also last October, Markey and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced legislation to develop “a coherent and multifaceted North Korea strategy combining diplomatic engagement, sanctions, and a stronger alliance between the United States and South Korea.”
However, on Friday Markey praised the president for making it possible to hold a summit and urged him to move talks in a positive direction.
“We must view this level of engagement of being the first in a long process and not the end of the process itself,” Markey said.
Trump said on Friday that a date and time have been settled on for an upcoming summit with Kim and would be announced soon. The president has said the historic meeting would likely occur in May or early June. It would be the first time a sitting U.S. president has met with the leader of a nation with whom we are still technically at war.
“Success requires looking back at the arc of history,” Markey said. He said there are major “trust deficits” between the two sides that must be recognized and handled.
Markey said huge challenges will confront U.S. negotiators, starting with defining what denuclearization means, conducting verification and devising tangible steps of sanctions relief.
“These obstacles are surmountable,” Markey told the forum.
Markey has been focused on nuclear proliferation and the often-overlooked widespread dangers of nuclear policy since the 1980s. His 1982 book, Nuclear Peril: The Politics of Proliferation, talked about the lack of transparency and challenges in learning how nuclear materials are provided across the globe and how that increases the chances for rouge nuclear weapons. As Markey said at the time of publication, “this is my effort to tell about the decisions we have to make on the full spectrum of nuclear issues” — a need he referenced in his Friday remarks and said continues today.
As a House member, Markey was also one of the leaders in the 1980s nuclear freeze campaign, which sought to put political pressure on the United States and the Soviet Union to mutually freeze the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.