Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urged President Trump to heed caution while making concessions during negotiations with North Korea until leader Kim Jong Un begins to take steps toward denuclearizing the peninsula.
“It’s important for us to remember that it’s largely words at this point, and that we have to look for actions, particularly from North Korea,” Panetta said during an interview with FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on Tuesday. “I was a little concerned that the president would give away our issue with regard to military exercises without getting something in return.”
The two leaders concluded their Tuesday meeting by signing an agreement that acknowledges progress in their talks. That deal reportedly includes a commitment to a “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula aimed at establishing a “peace regime.”
But Panetta, who previously worked for President Barack Obama, said there are a “huge number of issues” that will actually involve the denuclearization of North Korea, which owns an estimated 20 to 60 nuclear weapons with about 141 sites that can produce them.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “So I think it’s probably well for everybody to maintain a healthy skepticism until we see those actions taken.”
Panetta pointed to previous U.S. administrations that tried to negotiate with Pyongyang, but failed to make the deals stick.
“But again, as we learn from the past, North Korea will agree to take these steps, but you can’t trust them ultimately to fulfill what they commit to,” he said. “I think we just need to continue to be concerned about whether or not North Korea is going to stand by its word.”