SASC Member Perdue: Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea ‘Going to be a Long Road’
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who lived in Asia for years as a business executive, predicted the negotiations to achieve verifiable elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons will “not be easy or quick,” and he was “very concerned” about President Donald Trump’s unilateral promise to end the routine U.S. military exercises or “war games” with South Korea.
“The coordination with the South Korean military is absolutely critical,” and “I personally believe it’s premature to talk about removing [U.S.] troops from South Korea,” said Perdue, a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) member who had visited South Korea and other Asian allies earlier this year.
In a June 12 session with the Defense Writers Group, Perdue also called it “totally premature” to have any discussion on removing America’s nuclear umbrella for South Korea, which is believed to include nuclear weapons stored in the country.
“I think it would be terrible to throw in any concessions, except for economic development” before a solid agreement to denuclearize North Korea, he said.
Perdue said the goal of the negotiations that started with the meeting in Singapore between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was the total elimination of all fissile material, the ability to produce and to deliver a nuclear weapon, which means the long-range ballistic missiles North Korea has tested.
While he said he was “hopeful” about the opportunities, he knew from his years of conducting business in Asia “this is going to be a long road. … It’s very frustrating to negotiate in that part of the world.”
Perdue said the negotiations had to involve U.S. allies in the region but also China and Russia because of the influence they have with Kim. It cannot be a bilateral process with only Washington and Pyongyang, he said.
And verification would be “the most important part” of any agreement, which also would be difficult due to the lack of information on how many nuclear weapons North Korea has or where the weapons and the nuclear production facilities are.
Perdue said any agreement with North Korea must be a treaty that would have to be ratified by Congress.
Although considered a strong supporter of Trump, Perdue said he does not agree with everything the president says or does. He clearly was troubled by the angry ending to the G-7 conference in Quebec that had Trump at odds with six of America’s closest allies, particularly over trade.
“I believe you can have tough trade talks with friends,” he said, but added that America’s historic alliances are one of its greatest assets and he would have preferred that Trump bolster the alliances before getting into the increasingly bitter trade disputes.
With the Senate set to take up the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Perdue said the bill as presented does not adequately deal with the North Korean situation. But he did not want it held up for changes, because getting the appropriations passed on time was more important. The worst thing Congress does to the military is its constant use of continuing resolutions to fund the government, he said.
Perdue also called for better U.S. policies and actions in Asia to counter China’s aggressive economic and military expansion. Because of China’s growing influence in South East Asia, America “is considered the aggressor in the South China Sea” because of its freedom of navigation operations around the artificial islands China created there, he said.