President Donald Trump's decision to call off the Singapore summit with North Korea is puzzling, and millions of lives are at stake if he made a miscalculation with his move, Sen. Ben Cardin said Friday.
"The crisis on the North Korean Peninsula is caused by Kim Jong Un and North Korea by violating international norms," the Maryland Democrat told CNN's "New Day." "I think everyone understands that the only way to resolve this is through diplomacy. There is no military option without extreme risks, so it's puzzling that the president has now thrown diplomacy off-track."
Cardin said he thinks most people believe Trump pulled back for negotiating reasons, and that brings a risk of miscalculation, which "can have dangerous consequences."
"The question is what is the deal?" asked Cardin. "I think the president has been pretty clear that we need to have a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons. How quickly can we get there, what are the trade-offs? There's a lot of questions that need to be asked. One of my concerns is what is our game plan? What are we trying to achieve?"
In addition, negotiations can't be one-sided, said Cardin.
"North Korea is not just going to give up their nuclear weapons," he said. "Going into the summit, there was a concern as to whether both sides were adequately prepared for a successful summit. That's a legitimate concern as to whether we know what we want to achieve. Normally there would have been a great deal of consultation with Congress, there would have been a lot more openness as to what's expected. In this case, that's not what has happened."
However, despite the words of some Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who declared North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as "the big winner" after Trump's decision, and described the president's letter to him as "palsy-walsy," Cardin said Democrats want Trump's efforts to succeed.
"This is an extremely dangerous situation" he said. "Millions of lives literally are at risk if there's a miscalculation. No, all of us want the president to succeed and find a diplomatic way to end the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. It's in our interests, it's in North Korea's interests, it's in South Korea's interests, it's in China's interests, so we want the president to succeed."
The way to succeed, though, is through diplomacy, and Democrats want to be sure that when a summit does take place, the United States is properly prepared, said Cardin.
He also mentioned allies in Japan and South Korea were caught by surprise by Trump's actions.
"The president conducts foreign policy in a way that I find very, very disturbing," said Cardin. "South Korea has been a major player. They're the ones who used the Olympics to start the conversations. It was President Moon Jae-in's campaign to open up relations between the South and the North that was extremely positive. Here the president makes a major decision to cancel the summit and doesn't notify the South Korean leader in advance. I think that's just a mistake and it's the way that President Trump conducts policies. I think there's negative consequences to that."
Cardin also said he believes Trump to be a deal-breaker, and he finds that damaging.
"We've been isolated," he said. "America first is America alone. We're isolated in what he did with the Iran nuclear agreement. Paris, we're the only nation in the world that's not part of the climate accords. Time and time again, we've been isolated from the rest of the world, and that's not in the United States' interests."
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