Before departing for DMZ, US President Donald Trump told reporters in Seoul that he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will “just shake hands quickly and say hello” at the historic meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom.
US President Donald Trump arrived on Sunday at the Korean Demilitarized Zone for a historic meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Trump departed Seoul aboard the Marine One presidential helicopter shortly after South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that Kim had accepted Trump’s invitation to meet at the heavily fortified site at the Korean border village of Panmunjom.
“We’re going to the DMZ border and I’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim. I look forward to it very much. We’ve developed a very good relationship,” Trump said, hailing a “certain chemistry” between the two leaders.
But he was “in no rush” when it came to tensions on the Korean peninsula, Trump said at a press conference with Moon in Seoul, and stressed the meeting would be short.
“Just shake hands quickly and say hello because we haven ‘t seen each other since Vietnam,” he said, referring to a summit that collapsed without an agreement in February.
“It’s just a step and probably a step in the right direction,” said Trump.
The meeting is set to mark yet another historic first in the yearlong rapprochement between the two technically warring nations. It also marks the return of face-to-face contact between the leaders since negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program broke down during a summit in Vietnam in February.
Moon praised the two leaders for “being so brave” to hold the meeting and said, “I hope President Trump will go down in history as the president who achieves peace on Korean Peninsula.”
Trump did not mention Kim when he took to Twitter early Sunday to say that his schedule for the day would include a speech to US troops and a “long-planned” visit to the DMZ.
Their first meeting in Singapore last year took place in a blaze of publicity –– the first-ever encounter between a leader of the nuclear-armed North and a sitting US president, whose forces and their allies fought each other to a stalemate in the 1950-53 Korean War.
That summit produced a vaguely-worded pledge about denuclearisation, but a second meeting in Hanoi in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement.
Contact between the two sides has since been minimal –– with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position –– but the two leaders have exchanged a series of letters and Trump turned to Twitter on Saturday to invite Kim to a third diplomatic date.
saying hello at DMZ
“If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!,” Trump tweeted from Osaka in Japan, where he was attending a G20 summit before flying to Seoul.
He later said he would have “no problem” stepping into the North with Kim –– in what would be a dramatic re-enactment of the extraordinary scene last year when the young leader invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to walk over the Military Demarcation Line that forms the border between the Koreas.
“Sure I would, I would. I’d feel very comfortable doing that. I’d have no problem,” Trump told reporters.
It was not clear whether Kim would attend the rendezvous.
In an unusually fast and public response, within hours of Trump’s tweet the North’s official KCNA news agency quoted Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as saying the offer was “a very interesting suggestion” but that no official request had been received.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said the KCNA comments indicated Kim had “practically accepted” Trump’s invitation.
“If he (Kim) isn’t interested he would not release such a statement to begin with.”
Speculation grew that something was afoot when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo skipped a G20 dinner Friday without giving a reason.
“We’ll see. If he is there, we will see each other for two minutes,” said Trump.
Later Saturday, when he was asked about the meeting at a dinner with Moon in Seoul, he said: “We’re gonna see. They’re working things out right now.”
The DMZ has been a regular stop for US presidents visiting the South, a security ally –– although Trump’s helicopter was forced to turn back by fog in 2017.
And Moon –– who will also be going to the DMZ on Sunday –– and Kim held their first two summits last year at Panmunjom, a “truce village” on the border.
Trump could leverage the “historic setting” to send a clear message to Pyongyang on what a compromise agreement might look like, said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest.
The US could offer to suspend, rather than remove, some of the UN Security Council sanctions in exchange for the full closure of the North’s Yongbyon nuclear facility, he suggested.
“Such a formulation would give Pyongyang the economic incentives it needs to jump-start its economy while giving Trump an important foreign policy victory.”
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