President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are expected to meet for a historic summit in Singapore in less than a week — and Wyoming’s representatives believe the United States should maintain an uncompromising stance on denuclearization.
“We need to hold a hard line, the risk to us is very grave and we can’t live in a situation where they can hold our cities hostage,” U.S. House Rep. Liz Cheney said Tuesday in an interview with the Star-Tribune.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe the North Korean regime has assembled as many as 60 nuclear weapons and built a wide network of development and production facilities to create fissile material and testing components, and to assemble and store the warheads.
Tuesday’s meeting in Singapore is intended to start the process of ending the regime’s nuclear program, but Cheney doubts that the North Korean dictator is committed to that goal.
“I am not at all optimistic … we’ve seen in the past where they get concessions from the United States and others in exchange for false promises,” the Republican representative said.
Garnering support from the international community will be crucial, Cheney said. Tougher sanctions need to be imposed on North Korea and the ones that already exist must be enforced, she explained. Nations that violate the sanctions should face economic repercussions.
“They [should] have to make a choice, frankly, if they are going to continue to do business with the North Koreans, then they aren’t going to have access to our markets,” she said.
China’s cooperation is especially essential, given that it is North Korea’s largest trading partner, the representative added.
Cheney, who previously backed Trump’s statement that the North Korean regime will face “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the United States, said she still believes military intervention should be considered if other measures fail.
Republican U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi agreed that the denuclearization of North Korea is essential for the security of the United States.
“Our message must be clear that North Korea needs to stop its nuclear program,” Enzi told the Star-Tribune. “Direct war between the United States and North Korea is something I hope none of us ever see. But if these negotiations are to succeed, the U.S. will need to make it clear that it stands by its commitments and will protect our homeland.”
Barrasso said he’s hopeful that the Trump administration will achieve a positive outcome.
“President Trump’s strong position of imposing diplomatic, economic and military pressure on North Korea is working…” he said in a statement to the Star-Tribune. “As the United States continues to work on a deal, we must continue to impose sanctions, conduct joint military exercises, and keep the regime fully aware of the consequences of their actions.”
Whether the highly-publicized meeting in Singapore will actually take place has been uncertain in recent weeks. Trump abruptly cancelled the meeting on May 24, citing aggressive statements from the North Korean regime, but the president announced last Friday that the summit is back on.
“We’re going to really start a process...” Trump said, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House. “I think you’re going to have a very positive result in the end.”
Students studying political science and international relations at the University of Wyoming have been following the developments, according to Thomas Seitz, an associate professor for the school of politics, public affairs and international studies.
“It’s a big deal ... my students are certainly interested,” said Seitz, who focuses on U.S.-Asian relations.
Although the summit is unprecedented, the professor said he’s not surprised that the North Korean dictator wants to meet with Trump.
“The situation that exists there is unsustainable...” he said, explaining that it’s become more difficult to keep the country’s citizens isolated from the rest of the world. “Their economic situation isn’t getting any better.”
Seitz suspects it will still be extremely challenging to convince Kim to give up his nuclear program, but he thinks the summit is a step in the right direction.
“The alternative is not doing anything and that won’t get anything accomplished,” he said. “Someone has to engage.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.