Editor’s note: Moon has been extremely generous in assigning credit to Trump for outreach to North Korea that was really his doing in the past. Also the meeting comes shortly after the North Koreans had in frustration with the stalemate told Seoul to stop mediating between them and Washington. It is entirely possible the DMZ meeting was an idea of the South Koreans who have a lot ridding on the sunshine policy and who were only too happy for Trump to take the credit if he actually signed up for it. As long as it allowed them to finally deliver something to the North Koreans.
For one hour and eight minutes on the afternoon of June 30, a historic scene unfolded like a summer shower as North Korea and the US engaged in dialogue and as the South and North Korean and US leaders met at Panmunjom.
The two leaders appeared much more relaxed and familiar than during their past North Korea-US summits in Singapore and Hanoi, and while it was an informal dialogue, it yielded substantial results. It certainly is significant that US President Donald Trump extended an invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit the White House, but in terms of substantive outcomes, the key thing was the agreement to commence working-level talks to break through the deadlock in North Korea-US dialogue.
Trump also made reference to relieving economic sanctions through negotiations, while noting the absence of any long-range ballistic missile or nuclear testing by the North since dialogue was suspended.
Agreement to resume dialogue; Kim invited to visit White House
Meeting with reporters after the North Korea-US dialogue that day, Trump said he had told Kim, “At the right time, you’re going to come over [to the US].”
“I said, any time he wants to do it,” he added.
Trump also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be spearheading the creation of a working-level team in the next two to three weeks to engage in negotiations, signaling the beginning of working-level denuclearization talks and negotiations toward a third North Korea-US summit.
Explaining that the two sides had agreed to designate representatives to hold comprehensive negotiations toward an agreement, Trump said that while some “pretty complicated” issues remain, the US would continue watching the working-level discussions.
Trump went on to say that State Department Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun would be designated to lead the working-level negotiations, adding that Pompeo had a list of the team’s members. In terms of the new team’s significance, Trump said it would be holding better dialogue with new counterparts.
When asked by a reporter if the members of the previous North Korean negotiation team are still alive, Trump replied, “I can tell you the main person is. I would hope the rest are too.”
Hints at lifting economic sanctions; speed not the main objective
Speaking about economic sanctions against North Korea, Trump said, “At some point, [. . .] I’m looking forward to taking them off.”
“At some point during the negotiations, things can happen,” he added, suggesting the possibility of sanctions relief.
At the same time, Trump emphasized that he would not rush working-level negotiations going ahead. Stressing that the two leaders had had a good conversation, he said, “This was a very legendary, very historic day. It was quick notice, nobody saw this coming.”
Arguing that there was no need to rush, Trump said, “Speed is not the object,” explaining that rushing can lead to limited results.
“We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive, good deal,” he said.
Regarding the second North Korea-US summit in Hanoi and its failure to produce an agreement, Trump said that despite many criticisms, he viewed it as a “great success.”
“You sometimes need things like that to happen,” he continued, adding that he viewed Hanoi as successful because it had led to the June 30 meeting.
Short-range projectiles “not considered a missile test”
As if conscious of the favorable climate for dialogue, Trump shared remarks that appeared to reflect consideration for South and North Korea. When asked about North Korean short-range projectiles test-launched following the suspension of bilateral dialogue, he said, “These are missiles that practically every country tests.”
“I mean, these were very [small] – we don’t consider that a missile test,” he added.
“But we’re talking about ballistic missiles, long-range ballistic missiles, and [Kim Jong-un] hasn’t even come close to testing,” he continued.
“And most importantly, there were no nuclear tests,” he said, adding, “I think we’re on a very good path.”
Referring to Kim’s acceptance of his proposal to meet, Trump said, “I also want to thank Chairman Kim because [. . .] knowing the [US] press, like I do, had he had decided not to come, you would have hit me.”
“Two and a half, three years ago, it was really dangerous out there,” he said, adding that the relationship formed amid a dangerous situation for South and North Korea and the rest of the world was very meaningful to many people, describing the moment as “historic.”
In response, Kim said, “This sort of meeting could not have been arranged in the space of a day had it not been for the excellent relationship between President Trump and me.”
“I am certain that this will provide an amazing force for overcoming future hurdles and obstacles that we encounter as we achieve good things that others never expected,” he said.
Moon says leaders “over a major hill” in Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who described himself that day as having played a “supporting” role, said he viewed the third North Korea-US summit as “crossing over a major hill in terms of the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization and the permanent peace process.”
“It gave great hope to the entire world and 80 million South and North Koreans,” he added.
“Merely in terms of the agreement to begin working-level talks in the near future, I think good results will soon be upon us,” he said.
Moon also said, “Originally, the plan was only to visit Guard Post Ouellette, but thanks to President Trump’s bold proposal, a historic meeting has taken place.”
“I would like to express my respect for [Trump’s] bold and original approach,” he added.
In response, Trump said, “The initial talks will be between the United States and with North Korea. And President Moon will be right there.”