North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told President Donald Trump, “It’s good to see you again. I didn’t expect to meet you at this place.”
The two leaders first met at the line that divides the North and South. Trump then walked 20 steps into North Korea, making history as first sitting US leader to enter the country.
They then walked back over into the South side, where Trump invited Kim to the White House.
“I’ll invite him to the White House right now,” Trump said before shaking hands with Kim, who did not immediately respond to Trump’s comment.
“A lot of really positive things are happening,” Trump said earlier. “Really positive.”
Kim said he and Trump have an “excellent relationship.”
“If it wasn’t for that good relationship, we would not have been able to make this sudden meeting possible,” Kim said, adding: “I had wanted to meet you again.”
Trump thanked Kim once again for meeting and added, “When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up, the press was going to make me look very bad.”
Trump said because Kim showed up, they both looked good.
“This could be a very historic moment and I guess that’s what it is,” Trump said. “I think the relationship that we’ve developed has meant so much to so many people.”
‘He understands me, and I think I understand him’
Trump said on Sunday he would meet with Kim Jong-un at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas in an extraordinary last-minute get-together intended to revitalize stalled nuclear talks.
Kim accepted Trump’s unorthodox invitation, posted on Twitter just a day earlier, for what will be the third time the leaders have gotten together in person. The encounter will be little more than a brief greeting, not an extended negotiation, but it promises a camera-friendly, history-making demonstration of friendship between countries that have been longtime adversaries.
“We are going to the DMZ border, and we will be meeting Chairman Kim,” Trump said at a news conference in Seoul with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. “I look forward to it very much.” He added that there was “a lot of good feeling” between him and Mr. Kim. “He understands me, and I think I understand him,” he said.
It remained uncertain how the handshake between the two leaders would be orchestrated. Trump said before leaving Osaka, Japan, on Saturday that he would be perfectly willing to cross over the line into North Korea if need be, which would make him the first sitting American president to visit the long-isolated country, with whom the United States remains technically still at war from the conflict of the 1950s.
Kim crossed the DMZ in April 2018 to meet with Moon, becoming the first North Korean leader to step over the line since fighting between the countries ended in 1953. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton each visited North Korea, flying into its capital, Pyongyang, but only after they left office.
Trump met with Kim in Singapore in June 2018, the first time American and North Korean leaders had met since the war, and produced vague promises to pursue an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal. Their second summit meeting, in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended in failure in February when the two leaders could not agree on a concrete way to pursue that goal.
North Korean leaders went dark after the collapse of the talks, refusing to respond to either the Americans or the South Koreans amid conflicting reports about the fate of the negotiators blamed by Mr. Kim for the failure. North Korea also launched short-range missiles in May in violation of United Nations restrictions, a move that was seen as a reflection of Kim’s frustration over the stalled negotiations.
I am in South Korea now. President Moon and I have “toasted” our new Trade Deal, a far better one for us than that which it replaced. Today I will visit with, and speak to, our Troops – and also go to the the DMZ (long planned). My meeting with President Moon went very well!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019
In recent weeks, however, the North Korean government has re-emerged on the world stage as Kim exchanged letters with Trump and met separately with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China in what was seen as a signal of its interest in resuming diplomacy.
American officials have said they did not think a third meeting between Trump and Kim should be arranged unless a substantive agreement could be negotiated beforehand to avoid another setback. But Trump said that since he was already planning to visit the DMZ during his trip to South Korea this weekend, he decided it was worth seeing if Kim would agree to a short greeting.
‘Very overwhelmed with emotion’
“It’s just a step,” Trump said. “It might be an important step or it might not.” He added: “There’s a good feeling, so it could be very good. As far as another meeting, let’s see what happens today before we start thinking about that.”
Moon, who has staked his presidency on improving relations with the North, showered Trump with praise for reaching out, declaring that “the flower of peace is truly blossoming” and describing himself as “very overwhelmed with emotion” about the development.
“President Trump is the maker of peace on the Korean Peninsula, you really are the peacemaker of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. “I hope that this meeting with Chairman Kim at Panmunjom will bring hope to the people of South and North Korea and it will be a milestone in the history of humankind toward peace.”
But whatever good may be generated by the symbolic encounter at the DMZ, enormous differences remain between the two sides that have prevented a deal.
Trump has insisted that Kim give up his entire nuclear arsenal and program, while many experts, including American intelligence analysts, doubt that the North Korean leader is genuinely willing to do so.