NORTH KOREA – President Trump on Sunday became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot on North Korean soil when he crossed into the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula to hold an impromptu and historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
After the roughly 45-minute-long meeting, Mr. Trump told reporters he and Kim had agreed to restart negotiations in the hopes of brokering a deal to start the full denuclearization of the peninsula — a long-sought and elusive foreign policy goal of American administrations for decades. The president, who hailed his “great relationship” with the North Korean strongman, invited Kim to the White House to continue talks.
Through an interpreter, Kim told Mr. Trump, “I never expected to meet you in this place.”
The president, meanwhile, called the meeting a “big moment” after years of bitter hostility between the two countries that dates back to the Korean War. U.S. forces have been deployed in South Korea since the height of the civil war in the peninsula, which has technically not ended because no armistice was ever signed. Large-scale fighting ceased in the summer of 1953.
In an earlier press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Mr. Trump said it was too soon to know whether there will be a third summit with Kim following the unsuccessful summit earlier this year in Vietnam.
Although Mr. Trump conceded “this is not a political speech,” he said to the troops in the audience the “Democrats were not going to give” more support.
“They want open borders and to hell with the military,” Mr. Trump alleged.
Mr. Trump invited his daughter Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to come out on stage, calling them “beauty and the beast, Mike.”
Pompeo and Ivanka Trump both received cheers as they thanked the troops and said God bless America.
Mr. Trump is speaking to troops at Osan Air Force Base in Panmunjom, South Korea. He described how he “actually stepped in” to North Korea to cheers from the crowd.
“We turned around and everyone so happy,” Mr. Trump said about after he crossed into North Korea.
Mr. Trump apologized for being over two hours late but said he had a “great meeting” with Kim.
As for the U.S.’ economic sanctions against North Korea, Mr. Trump said he doesn’t like sanctions. “I’m looking forward to taking them off,” he said.
Although Mr. Trump invited Kim to the White House in front of the journalists at the border, he told reporters later that while meeting with Kim, “I said, at the right time, you’re going to come over.”
But Mr. Trump then said, “I said, any time he wants to do it.”
Mr. Trump said he and Kim had a “pretty long chat.”
“It was a very positive day, a very positive event,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it’s really good for the world.”
Mr. Trump described the border crossing as Kim asking him if he would like to walk over into North Korea and “I said, I would be so honored.”
“I said I would be honored to do that — I didn’t know what was he was going to say, but it was my honor,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump called it a “legendary day” and noted that it was “quick notice, nobody saw it coming.”
“A lot has already come up,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump also called the Hanoi summit, which ended abruptly and without any agreement, a “great success” because it led to this meeting.
Moon said the U.S. and North Korea agreeing to speak “constitutes a great success.”
Speaking before the media, Mr. Trump said it “feels great” to be the first U.S. sitting president to step into North Korea. “It was an honor to do that,” Mr. Trump said.
“This is a special moment — and as President Moon said, this is a historic moment,” Mr. Trump said.
Kim praised Mr. Trump, calling it a “courageous and determined act.”
Mr. Trump has invited Kim to the White House. Although Mr. Trump said the meeting could be just a handshake, the meeting appeared to be more substantial.
Moon also shook hands with Kim, which was a change from earlier when Moon said he would not be coming along for the meeting.
Mr. Trump made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to step onto North Korean soil when he crossed over the DMZ after sharing a symbolic handshake with Kim.
Mr. Trump is on the way to Panmunjom, the truce village located in the DMZ. He is poised to meet with Kim there.
Mr. Trump and Moon visited with American and South Korean troops ahead of Mr. Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump said he would be meeting with Kim “in about four minutes.”
Moon complimented Mr. Trump for bringing the “great change” between relations.
“The security area is being transformed from symbol of hostility to symbol of peace,” Moon said. “You are part of change and the very person that has brought this change has been President Trump. He is the president in front of all you.”
Mr. Trump repeated that this visit had been set “a number of months ago,” but “yesterday, I had the idea, maybe I’ll call Chairman Kim and see if he wants to say hello.”
A service member gave Mr. Trump a windbreaker and a baseball hat. “.We hope it might find you some utility out on the golf course,” the soldier said.
The visit gave him his first look into North Korea. This is his first visit to the DMZ since weather prevented him from going the last time he was in South Korea.
Mr. Trump has arrived at the DMZ, where he is scheduled to visit an observation post and greet U.S. and South Korean troops.
Mr. Trump arrived by helicopter in Marine One.
An administration official said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be joining Mr. Trump at the DMZ. Pompeo said Sunday that the U.S. is ready to resume talks with North Korea “at a moment’s notice.”
But as recently as Wednesday, North Korea blasted Pompeo for making “reckless remarks” in a recent State Department report.
Moon said he will not be attending the meeting at the DMZ but he will be at the DMZ.
“As for inter-Korean dialogue, this will happen at a later time,” Moon said.
As for a third summit, Moon said it depends on how Sunday’s meeting turns out.
Mr. Trump chimed in to say Sunday’s meeting is “just a step — it might be an important step, but it might not.”
“Let’s see what happens today before we start thinking about” a third summit, Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump repeated that he only decided on Saturday to extend the invitation to Kim.
“We’re going to be heading out to the DMZ, and something I planned long ago,” Mr. Trump said, “but had the idea yesterday to maybe say hello — just shake hands quickly and say ‘hello’ — because we haven’t seen each other since Vietnam.” He went on to say that he and Kim had a “great meeting” in Vietnam and that Vietnam may have been “more important” than the Singapore summit, though he did not explain why that would have been the case.
Mr. Trump said he isn’t in a rush to reach a deal. “If you’re in a rush, then you get yourself in trouble,” Mr. Trump said.
“I hope President Trump can be the president who achieved peace on the Korean peninsula,” Moon said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will join Mr. Trump at the DMZ. But Moon said the focus of the dialogue will be between Mr. Trump and Kim.
“I hope you can achieve great progress,” Moon said.
Mr. Trump told reporters after a meeting with South Korean business leaders that a “lot of good things are happening with North Korea.”
Mr. Trump said he wanted to see the DMZ. On Saturday, he described the DMZ by referring to it as a real border.
As for meeting Kim, Mr. Trump said “we’re trying to work it out. ”
“It’s going to be very short,” Mr. Trump said. “A handshake means a lot.”
At a press conference, before Mr. Trump left Japan on Saturday, he said he would be “very comfortable” crossing the DMZ, one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world, into North Korea.
No sitting U.S. president has ever visited North Korea. In 2009, former President Clinton — already out of office — went to Pyongyang to negotiate to free two imprisoned American journalists. Former President Carter visited in 1994 and met with Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung.
Mr. Clinton visited the DMZ in 1993, and former President George W. Bush visited in 2003 shortly before he declared the country part of the “axis of evil.”
Mr. Trump called his invitation via tweet to Kim Jong-un a “feeler.” Mr. Trump sent a tweet saying “if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”
“He sent me a very beautiful birthday card and I just — what I did is — and I guess he got my return letter, because it’s in the newspaper, it’s him reading the return letter,” Mr. Trump said Saturday in Japan. “But I just put out — I just thought of it this morning. We’ll be at the area, we may go to the DMZ or the border as they call it.”
Mr. Trump’s summit with Kim in Vietnam earlier this year collapsed without an agreement for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. South Korea’s government said earlier Friday that North Korea is ready for talks with the U.S.