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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
The chairmen of three U.S. House of Representative committees urged President Donald Trump, in a letter published on Thursday, to stop withholding from Congress information pertaining to North Korea and current negotiations with the DPRK.
The letter, signed by Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel, the Chairman House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, and the Chairman House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff comes just one week before Trump is set to stage a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“It is unacceptable that the administration is planning for a second meeting with Chairman Kim before Congress has been briefed by Secretary Pompeo on the June 2018 Singapore Summit,” the letter read.
“There is no legitimate reason for having failed to provide regular, senior-level briefings to the relevant committees of jurisdiction on a matter of such significance to our national security,” it added.
The three congressmen requested, in the letter CC’d to Pompeo, that the Secretary of State brief all House members on the outcomes of both summits within one week of the second summit’s conclusion.
They further added their deep concern “about the lack of transparency to Congress on intelligence matters related to North Korea” and cited letters sent by the congressmen previously which complained of insufficient congressional notifications from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“In our letter – to which we have yet to receive a response – we asked that access to information regarding North Korea’s nuclear and conventional weapons programs be restored for Members and appropriately cleared staff, as had been the case previously,” it said.
“On the eve of the second summit, we once again insist that you lift the access restrictions, which severely hamper Congress’s ability to evaluate the threat posed by North Korea,” it added.
Additionally, the committee Chairmen raised concerns about perceived differences between the administration’s assessment on the DPRK and that of the intelligence community.
“We are perplexed and troubled by the growing disconnect between the Intelligence Community’s assessment and your administration’s statements about Kim Jong Un’s actions, commitments, and intentions,” the letter read.
“Furthermore, our ability to conduct oversight of U.S. policy toward North Korea on behalf of the American people has been inappropriately curtailed by your administration’s unwillingness to share information with Congress,” it added.
In the letter, the congressmen cited testimony by the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats as well as separate testimony by the Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), Admiral Phil Davidson.
Coats testified to a U.S. Senate Select Committee on January 29 that the intelligence community assessed North Korea was unlikely to denuclearize and that signs had been observed throughout 2018 that were “inconsistent with full denuclearization”.
“We continue to assess that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, even as it seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization steps to obtain key U.S. and international concessions,” Coats said.
Davidson echoed this assessment on February 12 in testimony given ay a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.
“We think it is unlikely that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons or production capabilities, but seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization in exchange for U.S. and international concessions,” Davidson said.
“These assessments are alarming for what they indicate about Kim Jong Un’s intentions, and they are also inconsistent with your own statements, including your declaration that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat to the United States,” Engel, Smith, and Schiff wrote on Thursday to the President.
In addition to Trump and Pompeo, Coats and the Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan were also included in the letter.