Top Senate Democrats on Monday rolled out their own set of tough demands for any prospective nuclear pact with North Korea ahead of President Donald Trump's June 12 summit with Pyongyang.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined six fellow Democrats in a letter to Trump that outlined what they see as five necessary ingredients for any successful deal: "the dismantlement and removal" of all chemical and biological as well as nuclear weapons from North Korea; an irreversible end to testing and research as part of that nation's nuclear program; restrictions on ballistic missile work; verifiable inspections; and permanent status for all terms.
Since the White House began discussing Trump's potential meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Democrats have offered broad support for diplomacy — while reminding the president that the bar will be high for congressional buy-in for any agreement.
"If the deal doesn’t live up to these standards, then the president should not expect Democratic support in the Senate if he tries to lift sanctions" on North Korea, Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.
He later added that, if Trump reaches a deal that offers sanctions relief without sufficient denuclearization commitments, "we hope" that Republicans would also consider blocking the president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday offered his own advice to Trump ahead of the on-again, off-again summit, warning the president not to "fall in love with the deal" and lose sight of the fine print.
Eager to conduct congressional oversight, Democrats also urged Trump to engage lawmakers throughout the process, including by providing "regular and substantive briefings" through both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the National Security Working Group, a bipartisan forum established more than 30 years ago for the upper chamber to weigh in on arms control, anti-terrorism and other issues.
Trump himself has underscored that the meeting slated for next week in Singapore is only the beginning of talks with North, Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested last month that an ultimate product might take the form of a treaty — which would be subject to a Senate vote.
The Obama administration declined to submit its 2015 nuclear pact with Iran for the Senate's approval as a treaty, though a bipartisan push led to legislation allowing lawmakers to review that deal. When Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last month, among the criticisms cited by his allies were that agreement's sunset provisions and lack of ballistic missile curbs, two key North Korea deal standards that Democrats set on Monday.
However, Schumer and the Foreign Relations panel's top Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, held off Monday on discussing whether lawmakers might press for an Iran-style review of the North Korea deal.
"What we don’t need is to remove sanctions and have North Korea, as it has in the past … then violate the essence of the agreement they came to," Menendez said.