Days ahead of a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Republican lawmakers on Thursday rallied behind Trump, while Democrats expressed concerns about the encounter but stressed they are not rooting against the president.
"I'm hopeful — we've got a president who is determined to stop the [North Korean nuclear] program but prefers to do it peacefully," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told VOA. "I think what's at stake here is whether or not we have a war [with North Korea]. And we're going to have a war if we don't end this [nuclear standoff] peacefully."
North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis said Trump has already exceeded expectations when it comes to North Korea, a country that has vexed U.S. administrations for decades.
"We've seen this president do what several presidents before him have not been able to, and that's get the discussion [with Pyongyang] going," Tillis said.
Democrats said they support the diplomatic initiative despite misgivings about what a Trump-Kim encounter might produce.
"I want the president to succeed," Virginia's Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told VOA. "But it appears there has not been the kind of planning that normally goes into this kind of summit."
"We should all as Americans unite in hoping for a resolution to this nuclear crisis," New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker said. "We'll see what happens. I know how challenging, how hard these things are."
Democrats questioned Trump's ability to handle delicate and extraordinarily complex nuclear negotiations, given what he has demonstrated to date as commander-in-chief.
"I have not seen from this president attention to detail on any issue," Warner said. "He took the right step on ZTE, the Chinese telecom firm that is a national security risk, but at the first pushback [from Beijing], immediately retreated from his position. That doesn't give me confidence with him going into negotiations with the North Koreans, who clearly have had a long history of being wily in negotiations."
Trump himself may have exacerbated such concerns at Thursday's Oval Office meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. When asked about his preparations for the summit in Singapore, the president said, "I think I'm very well prepared. I don't think I have to prepare very much. It's about attitude, it's about willingness to get things done."
Questions about Trump's mastery of details are overblown, according to Tillis, who noted the president will depart for the summit with a full team to support him.
"With any executive, whether it's the chief executive of the country or a large, complex organization, you have experts there with you to fill the gaps," the North Carolina Republican said.
"I like President Trump's mindset when it comes to North Korea — open-minded determination," Graham said. "I think this [summit] starts a process. Success of the meeting would be if a serious process of negotiations follows the meeting, with time limits. North Korea has always run out the clock. They enter into agreements only to back off [later]. That has to end."