WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump is trumpeting results of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that get ahead of reality.
He is declaring that North Korea has begun ridding itself fully of nuclear weapons following an agreement with Kim in Singapore earlier this month, even though his Defense Department says otherwise.
Trump also prematurely claimed the return of remains of U.S. servicemen missing from the 1950-53 Korean War.
A look at how his statements compare with the facts:
TRUMP: “The big thing is, it will be a total denuclearization, which has already started taking place.” — remarks Thursday at Cabinet meeting.
THE FACTS: That’s not what his Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis, says. When asked by a reporter Wednesday whether he had seen any sign that North Korea had begun steps toward denuclearization, Mattis replied, “I’m not aware of any. Obviously, we’re at the very front end of the process. Detailed negotiations have not begun.”
At the summit, Kim committed to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but no details were worked out.
In May, before the summit, North Korea demolished tunnels at its sole underground nuclear test site, although outsiders have not inspected the result. Its nuclear program has many other elements, including nuclear materials production facilities, nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles and missile launchers.
TRUMP: “We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 have been sent back.” — remarks Wednesday at rally in Duluth, Minnesota.
THE FACTS: No remains have been returned, although Pentagon officials say they are prepared to receive them. Although the Singapore declaration said this would happen immediately, U.S. officials have given no indication that North Korea has committed to any specific timetable for the return.
On Thursday, in remarks at a Cabinet meeting, Trump modified his claim, saying, “They’ve already sent back or are in the process of sending back the remains of our great heroes who died in North Korea during the war.”
Aside from uncertainty over when North Korea will return the remains it has collected over the years, it’s unclear whether all will be in a condition to permit their positive identification, or whether they all are even Americans. A number of allied soldiers who fought alongside the U.S. during the war also are missing.
Nearly 7,700 American service members are listed as unaccounted for from the Korean War, of which an estimated 5,300 were lost in North Korea.