What Actually Happened at the Surprise Trump-Kim DMZ Summit
“What we’re doing today is a step and probably it’s a step in the right direction.”
After attending the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates the North and South Korea.
The unexpected meeting between both leaders came after Trump dropped an invitation to Kim to meet via a tweet.
After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019
With the meeting, the 73-year-old president has become the first President to step to cross the DMZ. The historic moment took place when Trump stepped into North Korea and shook hands with the 36-year-old leader. The two then walked towards Seoul, South Korea and stopped for picture-taking then they joined with their South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in.
Trump stated that he was proud of crossing the border, calling the meeting “wonderful.”
“Stood on the soil of North Korea, an important statement for all, and a great honor!” Trump tweeted.
While Kim commented that his extraordinary relationship with Trump will enable the two adversaries to overcome obstacles. The DMZ “summit” is the second meeting in 2019 between both leaders after talks fell apart in Hanoi, Vietnam last February over a disagreement on denuclearization terms and sanctions. It was Trump and Kim’s third meeting overall, the first talk was in Singapore in June 2018.
“This has a lot of significance because it means that we want to bring an end to the unpleasant past and try to create a new future. So it’s a very courageous and determined act,” Kim told reporters.
Trump told reporters that Kim was invited to visit the White House anytime.
“I said, any time he wants to do it,” Trump said after amending a previous statement that Kim could visit the White House “when the time is right.”
Trump and Kim Ready to Negotiate
During a press conference at the Inter-Korean House of Freedom located on the DMZ’s southern side, Trump said that he and his North Korean counterpart have agreed to re-start negotiations on denuclearization after the Hanoi meeting ended without any progress.
The president added that his team would start working and meeting on the issue in the next two or three weeks, but he assured that he was in no rush to reach an agreement.
Trump claimed that he is “not looking for speed [but] looking to get it right,” as BBC reported.
At the same time, the South Korean host, President Moon Jae-in, said he felt “overwhelmed” by the last-minute talks and expressed optimism for the follow-up talks.
“What we’re doing today is a step and probably it’s a step in the right direction. There’s a good feeling, so it could be very good. As for as another meeting I think let’s see what happens today before we starting thinking about that but it could be very important,” Jae-in said, as reported by Arirang News.
DMZ Summit Hardly Mentions ‘Denuclearization’
Notably, Trump barely mentioned the term “denuclearization” when he met and briefed the press with Kim at the border. It was still unclear whether the two leaders resolved any differences over interpretations of how to proceed with denuclearization.
For North Korea, Pyongyang’s main focus of any talks is to have sanctions lifted. But Kim also did not comment on sanctions during the open session at the DMZ.
Trump, however, confirmed that economic sanctions remain in effect but could be lifted as long as upcoming negotiations go well and North Korea fulfills Washington’s demand to completely dismantle its nuclear facilities.
The DMZ summit comes shortly after an escalation in tensions between North Korea and the U.S.
In early May, Pyongyang conducted two short-range missile tests – a move many saw as a response to the failed Hanoi talks with Trump. Soon after the missile launches, the U.S. seized a North Korean cargo ship carrying coal.
DMZ Summit Receives Mixed Reviews
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA called the meeting “amazing” and praised Trump as the first U.S. president to cross the border while still in office. But questions about the fate of nuclear talks still lingers as does skepticism about the motivations behind the impromptu DMZ meeting.
“I think (the meeting) was a one-time event for Trump’s re-election,” said Choi Yong-chul, a 65-year-old business owner in Seoul, to AP News.
“It was a summit that clearly shows the characteristic of Trump, who likes to use mass communication … but it’s still unclear whether these colorful diplomatic shows between the leaders could lead to progress,” said Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Seoul’s Korea University, to AP News.
Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, described the talks to AP News as worth it because it built momentum to continue and improve denuclearization negotiations, which he said is far from over.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “I am waiting for the day when Trump goes to Pyongyang and Kim goes to Seoul and Washington.”