President Donald Trump became the first president to cross the North Korean demilitarized zone on Saturday, stepping through the official enforced boundary between North and South Korea to shake hands with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The two leaders then met privately for about an hour — much longer than expected — to discuss restarting anti-nuclear talks that stalled after a second international pow-wow ended late last year.
The moment President Trump meets Chairman Kim at the DMZ and becomes the first sitting President to enter North Korea: pic.twitter.com/VwqGAEmmxz
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 30, 2019
Trump brought up the subject of meeting with Kim Jong Un earlier this week during the G20 conference in Osaka, Japan. He noted on Twitter and elsewhere that he could easily stop by North Korea on his way home if Kim Jong Un would be open to the idea of meeting, and did mention the DMZ.
“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(?)!” the President tweeted on Friday.
Clearly, Kim Jong Un took him up on his offer.
“I was very surprised to hear about your offer on the tweet and only late in the afternoon I was able to confirm your invitation. I had wanted to meet you again and especially for both Koreas, this place is a sign of unfortunate history of the past,” Kim Jong Un is reported as saying.
“It is good to see you again,” Kim told Trump as Trump crossed into North Korea on foot. “I never expected to meet you in this place.”
“Big moment,” Trump answered. “Big progress.”
Trump took only about 20 steps into North Korea before the pair retired to “Freedom House” according to Politico, a neutral meeting place where North and South Korea have routinely held talks. The visit ended with an open invitation from Trump to Kim Jong Un to travel to the United States and visit the White House, but no official, declared movement on either North Korean missile testing or American sanctions.
Politico reports that the pair met without the aid of John Bolton, who left the G20 early to visit Mongolia, but that Trump thought the meeting was productive regardless.
“This was a great day,” the president told reporters after the meeting. “It will be even more historic if something comes out [of it].”
The Trump Administration has been trying to ink an anti-nuclear deal with North Korea since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, and has held two major summits with the community country, encouraged by both South Korea and China. Unfortunately, the last round of talks held back in February ended early after North Korea refused to stop missile tests unless the United States immediately eased trade restrictions.
Trump is clearly hoping that the meeting at the DMZ will kick-start negotiations again, but North Korea seems reticent to give even the slightest ground in pursuit of peace. Since the last talks collapsed, North Korea has resumed missile tests and South Korean officials, while hopeful, seem less convinced that the meeting between the United States and North Korea will yield much in the way of results.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the meeting “brave,” and expressed hopes for a third conference.