SEOUL, July 1, (Xinhua/GNA) – U.S. President Donald Trump and top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un held a largely impromptu meeting at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom on Sunday.
Trump crossed the inter-Korean border with Kim, becoming the first sitting U.S. president ever to set foot on DPRK soil.
The two leaders also held a one-on-one close-door meeting at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the South Korean side and agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks in the coming weeks.
The historic moves will hopefully inject fresh impetus into the denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, which have hit a stalemate since Trump and Kim’s second summit in Hanoi in February ended without any agreement.
Arriving first at the venue, Trump greeted Kim and the two shook hands right above the military demarcation line (MDL), only marked by a low concrete slab.
Together with Kim, Trump crossed the dividing line to the DPRK side of the border village of Panmunjom, making history to become the first sitting U.S. president to step foot into the DPRK territory.
On the DPRK side, the duo shook hands again and posed for a photo before crossing the MDL back to the South Korean side.
The MDL has left the Korean Peninsula divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.
The two leaders then talked briefly and Kim called Trump’s walk across the border an “extraordinary, courageous determination” to steer relations forward.
Later, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with a beaming smile, joined them and talked with both Trump and Kim, which marked the first time in history that the leaders of the two Koreas and the United States met in Panmunjom.
Kim and Trump then walked into Freedom House, a South Korean building in Panmunjom, and talked for about 50 minutes behind closed doors.
Before the one-on-one meeting, Kim said the handshake of peace with the U.S. president represented a shift in relations between the two countries, previously marked by mutual hostility.
On Saturday, Trump invited Kim to meet in the DMZ through Twitter and told a press conference in Japan that he would feel comfortable stepping over into the DPRK if Kim showed up.
After the meeting, Trump said, “Certainly this is a great day, a very legendary, historic day. A quick notice, nobody saw this coming, great he (Kim) was able to react so quickly, we were all able to react so quickly.”
He said both sides will designate their teams to “start working” on negotiations in “two or three weeks,” and that he hoped for a comprehensive deal between Pyongyang and Washington, but “speed is not the object” as both sides look to “get it right.”
Trump said he invited Kim to Washington, while the DPRK reciprocated by saying that Kim would invite the U.S. leader to Pyongyang at the right time.
Trump and Kim have held two summits before Sunday’s meeting. The first one took place in Singapore in June 2018 after which the two leaders agreed on the complete denuclearization of and a permanent peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula.
They held their second summit in Hanoi in February this year, with the hope to put some flesh on the bones of the denuclearization process. But the talks abruptly fell apart without reaching any agreement.
Settlement of the nuclear issue has since come to a stalemate until recently, when the two leaders exchanged letters and Trump made a surprise proposal on Saturday to meet with Kim at the DMZ.
The DPRK responded hours after Trump’s invitation before the meeting eventually materialized between the two.
“This meeting is a big deal, and not just a photo-op, as some are saying,” because it allows the DPRK and the United States to “reset their relations and begin fresh after the setback in Hanoi,” Harry J. Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest, told Xinhua on Sunday.
“That is what peace looks like,” he said, referring to Trump’s move to cross the inter-Korean border.”
Historic steps such as Trump walking into North Korea (the DPRK), even for a moment, changes mind and perceptions.
It may seem small to many, but these are the very important things that build trust and change minds that America and North Korea (the DPRK) can trust each other,” Kazianis said.
“The fact that Kim Jong Un met on such short notice indicates he very much wants to forge some kind of agreement that will guarantee the DPRK’s security and suspend some sanctions while he begins to phase out his nuclear force,” said Tim Shorrock, a veteran analyst and correspondent for The Nation magazine. Sunday’s meeting was significant because “it sends a strong message to both Koreas and the United States that the peace process is ongoing and will continue,” he told Xinhua on Sunday.
The DMZ meeting came as a surprise for the international community, which has been calling for a political solution to the highly sensitive and complex Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
China also has been urging the two sides to come up with a practical and feasible roadmap accepted by both Koreas in solving the issue, and has been advocating accommodating the reasonable concerns of all relevant parties through dialogue and consultation.
When meeting with Kim during his state visit to the DPRK earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that China is willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with the DPRK as well as other relevant parties, and play a positive and constructive role in achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and long-term stability in the region.
Washington must begin to realize a “step-by-step approach” is the only way to solve the nuclear issue, said Kazianis, adding that it means each side should make “simultaneous concessions” to build trust.
“However, if the Trump administration continues to insist on North Korea’s (DPRK’s) complete disarmament before it gets any sanctions relief, then I am afraid the process is doomed, and we may go back to the days of fire and fury,” he warned.
Shorrock also said Washington could do a lot more to make the DPRK feel more secure, including lifting some initial sanctions and offering more in the way of diplomacy.
The United States should also lift its own barriers and sanctions that prevent the two Koreas from deepening their economic relations through the linking of railroads and roads, by opening the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and allowing South Korean tourists to visit the North, among others, he said.