North Korea's claimed willingness to give up its nuclear ambitions is a "great opportunity" to defuse a major threat in the world, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told CNBC on Wednesday. But the U.S. needs to be skeptical, he added.
President Donald Trump and members of his administration did a great job of "bringing people together," including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to put pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Corker said on "Squawk Box."
The retiring Tennessee Republican, who has had an on-again-off-again relationship with the president, said Trump would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize "if this gets resolved. My gosh, yes."
Trump's predecessor, former President Barack Obama, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation," according to the Nobel committee.
Another factor that's helped force Kim's hand after decades of North Korean defiance, according to Corker, was the "sort of left-leaning" South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who wanted to reach out, "instead of a more hawkish leader there."
Friday's historic summit between Kim and Moon and their pledge for "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" set the stage for Trump's as-yet unscheduled meeting with Kim.
However, even as things are appearing to line up, Corker warned that the world needs to be skeptical of Kim's overtures and whether he's just making empty promises to get relief from sanctions.
"Over 25 years, this has happened a number of times. This does look more optimistic than those other times," said Corker, who decided against seeking a third Senate term. "This is a long process, but it's starting out on a very good note."
Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, the former intelligence director, agreed with Corker, saying Trump and his foreign policy leaders were able to bring Kim to the negotiating table through a multipronged approach.
"The president squeezing the [North] Koreans, the economic sanctions, the diplomatic isolation, the military demonstrations — check, check, check. My guys would have been in favor of all of that," Hayden told CNBC in a separate interview. He was CIA director during George W. Bush's presidency and NSA director spanning Bill Clinton's and Bush's administrations.
However, Hayden said he did not view Trump's tweets calling Kim "Rocket Man" and comparing the size of their nuclear buttons as prudent.
"The tweets last summer to a thirtysomething who has not lived a rich international life — you and I have trouble understanding those tweets — just think of Kim Jong Un. I think those were dangerous and I'm glad they are behind us," Hayden said.