Top Democratic candidates take aim at Trump-Kim meeting

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s meeting in North Korea was heavily criticised by top Democrats. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: Top Democratic White House contenders offered scathing criticism of President Donald Trump’s Sunday meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, accusing him of damaging America’s standing and making unanswered concessions.

In a historic first, Trump stepped onto North Korean soil during his third meeting with Kim, then invited him to the White House “anytime he wants to do it.”

The campaign of former vice president Joe Biden, a leading candidate in the race to face off against Trump in 2020, said the president had “yet again fawned over Kim Jong Un – to whom he’s made numerous concessions for negligible gain.”

“Trump’s coddling of dictators at the expense of American national security and interests is one of the most dangerous ways he’s diminishing us on the world stage,” campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Elizabeth Warren, another leader in the Democratic field, also took aim at Trump.

“Our President shouldn’t be squandering American influence on photo ops and exchanging love letters with a ruthless dictator,” she tweeted.

“Instead, we should be dealing with North Korea through principled diplomacy that promotes US security, defends our allies, and upholds human rights,” Warren said.

Some White House hopefuls gave a guarded welcome to the Trump-Kim meeting.

Senator Bernie Sanders, also a top 2020 candidate, said he had “no problem” with Trump’s decision to meet with Kim, a moment of high diplomatic drama in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas.

“Sitting down with our adversaries is not a bad idea,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I wish (Trump) would do that in the Middle East as well, and in the Persian Gulf.”

More than just photos

“In the case of North Korea, if we can get rid of nuclear weapons there, that would be a very good thing.”

But the Vermont senator warned Trump had “weakened the State Department” since taking office and stressed the US and North Korea need to “move forward diplomatically, not just do photo opportunities.”

Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Amy Klobuchar, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “of course, as a country, we want this to work. I think any discussions are helpful.”

But she cautioned: “I don’t think we know if it works until there is results.”

Fellow 2020 hopeful Beto O’Rourke was more scathing – charging Trump had “added legitimacy to Kim Jong Un” without significant concessions in return.

“Despite three years of almost bizarre foreign policy from this president, this country is no safer when it comes to North Korea,” the Democratic ex-congressman said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Former US housing secretary Julian Castro, also seeking the Democratic nomination, was just as critical.

“What’s happened here is that this president has raised the profile of a dictator like Kim Jong Un,” while “we haven’t gotten anything out of it,” he said on ABC.

Castro added, “I don’t think it’s fitting for the United States to continue to erratically meet with a dictator when they haven’t abided by the first terms” agreed on at last year’s summit in Singapore.

Trump’s seemingly impromptu meeting with Kim came as negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington were deadlocked.

Their first summit in Singapore took place in a blaze of publicity but produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearization.

A second meeting in Vietnam in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement, and contact between the two sides has since been minimal.