President Trump made history by crossing the border that divides North and South Korea on Sunday.
Less than two days after Trump extended an invitation over Twitter, the president shared a handshake with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean demilitarized zone in what was an unprecedented display of goodwill between the United States and North Korea.
“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump said after crossing back into South Korea.
Multiple sitting presidents have visited a U.S. observation post overlooking the DMZ over the years, but Trump is the first to meet a North Korean ruler there, let alone cross the demarcation line.
Upon coming face-to-face with Trump, Kim said to Trump, “Good to see you again.” He added that he would have “never expected” to see the president “at this place.”
After sharing the handshake and speaking with Kim, Trump gestured to allow Trump to cross the physical demarcation line. Trump then crossed, took a few steps with Kim, shared another handshake and exchanged some more words, then crossed back into South Korea with Kim. They continued to speak and walked into a conference hall, spoke with press, and entered into a meeting.
The encounter took place after Trump visited an observation post and received a briefing. At the observation post, Trump declared the DMZ used to be “very dangerous,” but claimed his dialogue with Kim made it less so and the media “have no appreciation for what is being done, none.” Trump also met with U.S. service members who are stationed in South Korea at a DMZ dining hall.
The face-to-face meeting with Kim set a distinctly positive note for a fragile relationship that soured when their second meeting in Vietnam ended with Trump walking out. While the first meeting between the two leaders in Singapore in 2018 — the first between a U.S. president and the head of North Korea — yielded a signed joint statement, the second bilateral meeting, in Hanoi earlier this year, ended abruptly.
The main goal for the U.S. in these talks has been achieving denuclearization the Korean Peninsula, while Pyongyang has sought the easing of international sanctions.
Before Trump and Kim entered into a closed-door meeting, Trump was asked if he would invite Kim to the U.S. Trump said, “I would invite him right now,” and in particular the White House. The president also said, “I think it’s historic, it’s a great day for the world.”
In the Freedom House, Trump and Kim sat down and briefly spoke with the press. In the room were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and others.
Kim spoke of “willing to put an end to the unfortunate past,” according to an interpreter, adding that if not for the “excellent relations between the two of us” this opportunity would not be possible.
Trump mentioned the “the power of that voice” of Kim, noting that he does not do news conferences. “Thus is a historic moment, the fact that we’re meeting,” Trump said, adding that “You made us both look good” with this meeting and “we’ve developed a great relationship.”
The press were then ushered out and a closed-door talks ensued which lasted about an hour.
After walked Kim back across the border, Trump, standing beside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, called the meeting “a very good one,” but offered few specific details on what he and Kim discussed. Trump said over the next several weeks teams from the U.S. and North Korea will meet to pursue diplomatic progress and cautioned that “speed is not the object.”
Since the second round of talks fell apart, North Korea has used at times harsh rhetoric against the U.S. Last month, the state-run Korean Central News Agency called national security adviser John Bolton a “defective human product.” North Korea also conducted a weapons test in April, the first time the rogue regime publicly conducted one since November 2017.
Although North Korea’s record of human rights abuses has not been a top subject of discussion in these talks, the 2017 death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who had been detained in North Korea, has also proved to be a tricky topic to navigate for the American president as he has also consistently spoken positively of Kim.
South Korea has played a role in the diplomacy effort. Trump’s handshake with Kim comes after a historic meeting between Kim and Moon in April 2018 at the DMZ, which was drawn after the 1953 armistice of the Korean War.
In a press conference with Trump in Seoul on Sunday, Moon said he had been invited to join the American president at the DMZ. He also called Trump “the maker of peace” of the Korean Peninsula, according to a translation.
Trump touted the progress he has made in fostering his relationship with Kim and said if he had not been elected president, “I honestly believe you would have been at war with North Korea.”
While Trump said he and Kim “understand each other,” he also claimed his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, had been “begging” for a meeting with Kim.
Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, quickly disputed the claim. “Trump is lying. I was there for all 8 years. Obama never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un. Foreign policy isn’t reality television it’s reality,” Rhodes said in a tweet.
On the possibility of a third North Korea-U.S. summit, Trump said, “the timing of that, really, that would depend on what kind of change today’s encounter will bring about. But we have expectations for future development, obviously.”
The encounter at the DMZ comes a couple days after Trump was in Japan for the G-20 summit in which he held discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he said they reached an understanding to get trade talks “back on track” amid a trade war.
Author: Daniel Chaitin
Source: Washington Examiner: Trump makes history crossing into North Korea