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WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump tempered his optimism on North Korea on Sunday, saying that "only time will tell" how things turn out, as U.S. lawmakers sounded skeptical about promises made by Pyongyang ahead of possible historic talks between the countries' leaders.

"We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won't -- only time will tell," Trump said Sunday on Twitter. "But the work I am doing now should have been done a long time ago!"

In an earlier tweet, the president criticized NBC journalist Chuck Todd. "Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing," Trump wrote. "Wow, we haven't given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!"

Todd, host of Meet the Press, had questioned on his program whether the president had gotten anything in return for the "huge gift" he had given the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, by agreeing to meet with him.

[NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA: Maps, data on country’s nuclear program]

Later in the day, the president had a word for those who had publicly counseled him to proceed warily.

"Funny how all of the Pundits that couldn't come close to making a deal on North Korea are now all over the place telling me how to make a deal!" he tweeted.

Sunday's comments followed those from Trump on Friday after Kim pledged to halt nuclear testing in what was seen as a largely symbolic gesture aimed at softening the ground for talks between the two leaders. Trump then hailed "big progress" and said he looked forward to the summit with North Korea's leader, which could go ahead in May or June.

Kim told a ruling-party meeting in Pyongyang on Friday that his regime would suspend tests of atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles after achieving its goal of building a nuclear arsenal, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. North Korea will shutter its Punggye-ri test site, a secluded mountain facility believed to be damaged after a hydrogen bomb test in September.

However, the reclusive state's media have steered clear of using the term "denuclearization" to describe Pyongyang's offer. Kim has made no commitment to give up the estimated 60 nuclear bombs and the unknown number of intercontinental ballistic missiles he already has.

Today, South Korea halted anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts across the rivals' tense border ahead of inter-Korean talks this week that are expected to focus on the North's nuclear program, Seoul officials said.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are to meet at a border village on Friday in the rivals' third-ever summit talks.

Seoul had blasted anti-Pyongyang messages and pop songs from border loudspeakers since the North's fourth nuclear test in early 2016. Pyongyang quickly matched Seoul's campaign with its own border broadcasts and launches of balloons carrying anti-South leaflets across the border.

South Korea, however, turned off its broadcasts to try to ease military tensions and establish an environment for peaceful talks, Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Experts inside and outside the U.S. government believe that Kim's ultimate goal is to have his country recognized as a nuclear power even as he offers enough concessions -- some potentially largely symbolic -- to press the United States into easing crippling economic sanctions.

Analysts who study North Korea's diplomatic patterns say there is cause for concern over Kim's overtures, given his murky motives and his apparent effort to use the concessions to try to achieve the upper hand in the negotiation process.

North Korea has a long history of not abiding by promises to curtail its nuclear program, and Todd on his program reflected skepticism among former and some current White House officials that Kim will actually follow through on any vow to dismantle the North's primary nuclear test site or stop nuclear weapons testing.

Some officials worry that Trump may be so eager to reach a historic deal that he will be lured into an agreement that falls short of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that global powers have demanded.

White House legislative director Marc Short said on Sunday that the administration has "cautious optimism" about North Korea.

Asked what "denuclearization" meant to the two sides, Short said that they would have to hash it out, but that the U.S. view was that it would mean "full denuclearization."

The ongoing negotiations with Pyongyang reinforce the need for a fast vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state, Short said on Meet the Press.

Pompeo, in his role as CIA director, recently traveled to North Korea in secret to lay the groundwork for Trump's potential meeting with Kim.

CONGRESSIONAL SKEPTICS

U.S. lawmakers sounded more skeptical than optimistic on Sunday.

On CNN's State of the Union, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Kim's efforts should be met with caution. Corker, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said North Korea's leader has staged a "great public relations effort" to woo Trump.

But asked whether be believed the North would denuclearize, Corker offered caution.

"Well, I don't think he said anything about denuclearizing on the front end necessarily," he said.

He added on ABC's This Week that it's unrealistic to think that "somebody's going to go in and charm" Kim out of keeping his nuclear weapons.

"Is it realistic that he's just willy-nilly going to do that? Absolutely not," Corker said. "But, you know, progress can be made, freezing the program, who knows what he's -- what his ambitions are as it relates to South Korea."

Corker's committee will vote today on Pompeo's nomination, which would then move to the full Senate. The former Kansas lawmaker is nearing the votes he needs for confirmation after Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said she'll cross party lines to back him.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Friday's announcement by North Korea was easily reversible. "It's better than continued testing, but it's not much better than that," Cotton, a member of the Senate's intelligence and armed services committees, said on CBS. "But I do think they show that the president has put Kim Jong Un on the wrong foot for the first time."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., termed North Korea's pledge to suspend missile testing as "a beginning."

"The question is whether it lasts or not," Feinstein said on CBS News's Face the Nation. "The reputation of the North Koreans has been that they don't necessarily keep their agreements."

Information for this article was contributed by Ros Krasny of Bloomberg News; by Katie Rogers of The New York Times; and by Jill Colvin, Charmaine Noronha and Hyung-jin Kim of The Associated Press.

A Section on 04/23/2018

Print Headline: N. Korean pact still a big maybe, Trump cautions

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