SEOUL — U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday took the historic step – literally – of crossing the border between the two Koreas to shake hands with Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone. They agreed to restart bilateral talks.
The unscheduled encounter took place following the Twitter suggestion just a day earlier by President Trump of such a meeting. But it was always uncertain whether Kim would travel to the demarcation line.
Officials had suggested that the two men would shake hands at the border line. But the meeting went further than that.
Trump took a few dozen paces into the North and spent barely a couple of minutes in enemy territory – the two Koreas are still technically at war — before walking Kim across the border into the South. There they met South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and held what appeared to be an impromptu press conference.
“It was a great honor to cross the border,” said Trump. In an aside, Trump later appeared to suggest that Kim might be invited to the White House.
The brief press meeting turned into a private bilateral discussion between the two leaders that lasted upwards of 50 minutes. Remaining outside were presidential advisers Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Sunday’s Trump-Kim DMZ meeting followed a first summit conference between the two men in Singapore last year. A second summit in February this year in Hanoi, Vietnam, was intended to discuss the details of North Korean demilitarization. The Hanoi meeting ended early, with a flurry of acrimonious words, and no deal.
On Sunday, the two leaders again demonstrated a high degree of personal chemistry. But the two countries remain miles apart over the complex nuclear issues, economic sanctions, and how to execute any resolution.
After Trump accompanies Kim back to the border, he again addressed the media on the South side. “We have teams (of negotiators) who are going to meet over the next two weeks (to get talks back on track),” said Trump. He said that Mnuchin would head the U.S. team. “Good luck, Steve.” Answering press questions, Trump confirmed the White House invitation to Kim, but gave no timetable. “Some day it’ll all happen.”
“The 80 million people on the Korean peninsula have been given new hope today,” said South Korean President Moon. “I’d like to pay tribute to the bold and creative approach taken by President Trump.”