Pyongyang, 30th June: Donald Trump stepped onto North Korean soil on Sunday as he met Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarised Zone dividing the peninsula, in a symbolic diplomatic spectacle and a first for any American president.
After shaking hands with Kim over the line that marks where their two countries and their allies fought each other to a standstill in the 1950-53 Korean War, Trump walked for several steps into North Korean territory, before another handshake.
The two men then walked into Seoul’s territory together – pausing on the line for photographers – where they were joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Trump stated that It was a great day for the world and it was an honour for him to be there. Trump said. “A lot of great things are happening.”
The impromptu meeting in the DMZ – which came after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter on Saturday – comes with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington over the North’s nuclear arsenal at a deadlock.
The two would “just shake hands quickly and say hello because we haven’t seen each other since Vietnam”, Trump said earlier.
Their first summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced a vaguely-worded pledge about denuclearisation, and a second meeting in Vietnam in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement.
Minimal contact has been kept between the two sides – with Pyongyang issuing frequent critical analysis on the US position – but the two leaders have exchanged a series of lengthy letters and Trump turned to Twitter on Saturday to issue his offer.
“If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border” he wrote from from Osaka in Japan, where he had been attending a G20 summit before flying to Seoul.
In an unusually fast and public response, within hours of Trump’s tweet the North’s official KCNA news agency quoted Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as saying the offer was “a very interesting suggestion”.
Trump’s entry onto North Korean soil is a dramatic re-enactment of the extraordinary scene last year when the young leader invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to walk over the Military Demarcation Line that divides the Koreas.
Moon – who seized on last year’s Winter Olympics to broker the process between Pyongyang and Washington, after tensions soared in 2017 amid missile and nuclear tests and mutual insults – will be going to the DMZ with Trump.
But analysts were divided over the headline-grabbing meeting’s potential impact on the underlying issues.
The four-kilometre-wide DMZ, going for 250 kilometres, is where the front line ceasefired when the Korean War ended. This is described as the world’s last Cold War frontier.