Trump Pressured by Democrats on Terms for Deal With North Korea

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Democrats sought to raise the stakes for any deal President Donald Trump strikes with North Korea by demanding it include complete dismantlement of all of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons before they will support legislation to lift sanctions.

“The president needs to be willing to walk away from the table if there isn’t a good deal to be had,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters on Monday. Schumer and six other Senate Democrats who are leaders on national security issues sent a letter to Trump outlining their demands.

The Democrats laid out their terms as recent polls show public backing for Trump’s pursuit of a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this month. That may be contributing to an uptick in the Republican president’s overall approval ratings, which could diminish Democrats’ prospects of taking control of one or both chambers of Congress in November elections.

Senate Democrats would have some leverage if any deal is struck between U.S. and North Korea. Any legislation lifting existing sanctions could be subjected to a filibuster, which would take 60 votes to end in a chamber that Republicans control with a slim 51-49 majority. And if a treaty were actually to emerge after the June 12 summit, that would take a 67-vote super majority to clear the Senate.

In addition to complete dismantlement of weapons, Democrats are calling for an end to the production and enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes and destruction of nuclear test sites and other “infrastructure” for North Koreans weapons development. They also want to see an end to North Korea’s ballistic missile program, full inspections to verify an end to various weapons programs and “snap-back” sanctions if North Korea’s leaders don’t comply. They also want any deal to be permanent.

“Getting an agreement with North Korea is actually the easy part,” said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Any accord must be “sustainable and not a flimsy framework.”

Schumer said Democrats haven’t determined whether they would demand congressional review of any final deal, as was the case after the 2015 Iran nuclear accord was reached.

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