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N. Korea says Kim-Trump meeting was ‘historic’ and ‘amazing’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands across the line separating North and South Korea on Sunday, June 30, 2019.

VIA KCNA

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 30, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday called the meeting between its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump the day before “historic” and “amazing.”

The two leaders agreed to “resume and push forward productive dialogues for making a new breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in the bilateral relations,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

The report echoed Trump’s comments on Sunday, when he said the two sides agreed to resume negotiations, which had been stalled since the previous U.S.-North Korean summit in Vietnam ended without agreement in late February.

Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step onto North Korean territory, nearly seven decades after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

The surprise encounter occurred after Trump invited Kim to shake hands at the truce village of Panmunjom, which straddles the heavily fortified border.

“In 66 years since the Armistice Agreement in 1953 there happened such an amazing event of the top leaders of [North Korea] and the U.S. exchanging historic handshakes at Panmunjom, a place that had been known as the symbol of division,” KCNA said.

Meeting for the third time in just over a year, the two leaders grasped hands and chatted as Trump walked several feet on the North Korean side. He then escorted Kim to the South, where the North Korean leader also shook hands with President Moon Jae-in.

Trump and Kim held a 50-minute meeting in the so-called Freedom House in an impromptu summit that both sides said yielded important results.

KCNA also noted that Kim had met and shaken hands with Moon, which will be welcome to the South Koreans who have been seeking to improve inter-Korean relations.

Seoul, a staunch U.S. ally, has begun several bilateral initiatives with the North but is limited by the U.S.-led sanctions.

The nations, which remain technically at war, agreed last June during their first summit in Singapore to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to improve relations.

But talks have faltered over the details of how to do so, with the North seeking a reciprocal approach that includes relief from punishing sanctions. Washington has insisted the sanctions will remain in place until denuclearization is achieved.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said special envoy Stephen Biegun would lead the U.S. side in resuming talks “sometime in July, probably in the next two or three weeks … at a place yet to be determined.”

Biegun’s counterpart will be from the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

“The teams will gather, and they’ll start working. They’ll start exchanging ideas,” Pompeo told reporters Sunday before the delegation flew back to Washington after the two-day visit to South Korea.

“The president, by getting together with Chairman Kim today, broke through and was able to get us the opportunity to get back to the negotiating table, which I’m excited about,” Pompeo said. “It’s good for North Korea; it’s good for America, good for the world.”

KCNA quoted Kim as saying “that it was good personal relations with President Trump that made such a dramatic meeting possible at just a one day’s notice.”

He also noted that “the relations would continue to produce good results unpredictable by others and work as a mysterious force overcoming manifold difficulties and obstacles in the future, too.”

Negotiations began in force last year after months of hostilities in which Trump and Kim traded threats of war while the North displayed strong progress toward developing a nuclear weapon that could target the U.S. mainland.

Sunday’s meeting underscored Trump’s determination to use his personal negotiating style to try to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons. The two men were shown sitting before a row of interspersed U.S. and North Korean flags, suggesting the Americans had preplanned for the possibility of a sit-down.

Trump had played down expectations earlier, telling reporters that he looked forward to seeing Kim and planned “to shake hands quickly and say hello,” which would suggest the extended meeting was a last-minute call.

Experts cautioned that more than a hastily arranged meeting between the two leaders was needed to resolve the decades-long nuclear issue.

Other U.S. presidents have visited the Joint Security Area since Ronald Reagan began the trend, usually expressing their resolve to prevent the North from obtaining nuclear weapons. Former President George H.W. Bush visited when he was vice president.

But Trump was the first to meet with a North Korean leader. He also became the first to hold a summit with the communist state, in Singapore.

Past presidents have refused to meet with the North until it agreed to denuclearization because they didn’t want to bestow the veneer of legitimacy on the Kim regime.

Some 28,500 U.S. servicemembers are stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks toward U.S. President Donald Trump, waiting at the berm separating North and South Korea, on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
VIA KCNA

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