“Good afternoon,” was the first thing U.S. President Donald Trump said to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), separating the two Koreas, Sunday.
“It’s great to see you again,” Kim responded with a glimmer of smile, as the two met in the first-ever encounter between a leader of the nuclear-armed North and a sitting U.S. leader, whose countries forces and their allies fought each other to a stalemate in the 1950-53 Korean War.
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Trump also became the first incumbent U.S. president to cross over the border into North Korea.
“You are the first U.S. president to step over the military demarcation line (MDL). It represents your willingness to prevent an unfortunate future,” Kim said through an interpreter. Trump replied: “Stepping across the line was a great honor. This is my great honor. A lot of progress has been made … Lots of really positive things are happening … tremendous positivity. Really great things are happening.”
“You asked me to step over the line. I thought you might do that, but wasn’t sure. This could be a very historic moment and I enjoy being with you and thank you very much,” Trump said. The U.S. President invited Kim to the White House, however, it was unclear whether or not the North Korean leader accepted the invitation immediately.
The two leaders shared their historic greeting at the inter-Korean border near the truce village of Panmunjeom. After they shared a brief conversation, Kim asked Trump to briefly cross the MDL into the North and the U.S. president briefly stepped over the line before the two went to Freedom House on the South side of the border for a trilateral meeting with President Moon Jae-in.
The three then held a historic summit after Moon let Trump and Kim continue their conversation for a while.
In what was a very remarkable and historic diplomatic spectacle, Trump made his surprise visit to the DMZ, accompanied by President Moon. The two leaders arrived at the Ouellette Guard Post inside the zone and toured the post overlooking North Korean territory for five minutes with a senior USFK officer. They then had a brief meeting with USFK and South Korean soldiers in a small banquet hall at Freedom House.
“This is the first time in history that presidents of the United States and South Korea have jointly visited the DMZ. Now, the DMZ is being transformed from symbol of hostility to one of peace. You are witnessing a great change,” President Moon told the troops. President Trump said, “You are special group of people and I really appreciate it, appreciate it very much. So, this was scheduled month ago. We didn’t give much notice. We respect each other,” according to joint press pool reports from the Cheong Wa Dae and White House press corps.
Shortly after the visit, the two leaders moved to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom, located in the 2.5-mile buffer zone between North and South Korea for the brief meeting with the North Korean leader.
Later, before departing Seoul by Marine 1 helicopter, Trump told a joint press conference held with President Moon that his visit to the DMZ was “just a big step” and the meeting with Kim was a “step in the right direction.” Regarding the possibility of a third “official” U.S.-North Korea summit, the U.S. president said: “As far as another meeting, let’s see what happens today before we start thinking about that. But it could be very important.”
President Moon told reporters he was “very impressed and surprised” at the decision of “two very courageous leaders” to meet at the DMZ. “I hope President Trump will be remembered as the person who achieved peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said.
Source: The Korea Times, Yonhap