Panmunjom (South/North Korea): Donald Trump stepped onto North Korean soil in a historic day as he met Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-un in a moment of high diplomatic drama on the world’s last Cold War frontier.
Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.
Trump also said he had invited the young leader to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.
“It’s a great day for the world and it’s an honour for me to be here,” Trump said.
As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us.
“If you shake hands with Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Military Demarcation Line, it would be historic, just by the picture of it.
“Not only for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, but also for a permanent peace in the region, it’ll be very meaningful,” said Trump.
And on the future, the US president said: “We want to get it right. We’re not looking for speed. We want to get it right.”
The impromptu meeting in the DMZ – after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter on Saturday – came with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at a deadlock.
“The relationship that we’ve developed has meant so much to so many people,” he said in a joint appearance with the North Korean leader, adding that his willingness to meet on short notice “made us both look good.”
Their first summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced a vaguely-worded pledge about denuclearisation.
A second meeting in Vietnam 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 exchanged a series of letters before Trump turned to Twitter to issue his offer to meet at the DMZ.
Until June 30th, 2019, no US president has ever met a North Korean leader in the DMZ.
Trump’s entry onto North Korean soil –which he said was uncertain until the last moment – is an extraordinary sequel to the scene at Kim’s first summit with Moon last year, when the young leader invited the South Korean to walk over the Military Demarcation Line, as the border is officially known.Moon seized on last year’s Winter Olympics to broker the process between Pyongyang and Washington, after tensions soared in 2017 as the North carried out multiple missile launches and its biggest nuclear test to date, while Trump and Kim traded mutual insults and threats of war.
Moon said that if Kim were to “sincerely, completely” dismantle Yongbyon, the international community would be able to discuss easing sanctions.
“It’ll be the starting point for an irreversible denuclearisation,” he said.
Meanwhile, an elated Kim said that his “wonderful” relationship with Trump would enable the two long-time enemies to get over obstructions, with their nuclear talks at a stalemate.
“I am convinced our relationship will enable us to overcome barriers standing in the way. This is a great day … indeed,” said Kim, adding as the two leaders held talks in the DMZ that their close ties enabled a meeting to happen “just overnight”.
The significance of the meeting in the no-man’s-land often referred to as the world’s last Cold War frontier was “obvious”, said Stimson Centre Asia analyst David Kim.
“It’s historic for Trump to be the first US President enter North Korea soil, historic for Moon to meet, albeit briefly, with both leaders.”The meeting had the “potential to kick-start stalled negotiations”, he said, but added that working-level discussions would be crucial.
The Yucatan Times Newsroom with information from The Star