Kim Jong Un accepted Donald Trump’s last-minute invitation to meet him at the border between the two Koreans, hoping to revive the rapprochement process.
Donald Trump succeeded: Kim Jong Un on Sunday accepted his last-minute invitation to meet him at the border between the two Korea, hoping to restart the process of rapprochement with the regime hit by international sanctions.
The meeting will probably not be enough to solve the delicate North Korean nuclear issue. But the symbol is important for two countries that were threatening each other with annihilation a year and a half ago: never did an American president meet the highest North Korean official at the most emblematic border of the cold war.
Arrived Saturday night in South Korea, the US President must visit early in the afternoon on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the no man’s land that separates the two states since the end of the Korean War (1950-53 ).
Before his arrival, he had sent via Twitter a surprise invitation to Kim Jong Un to say “hello” to him.
After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 28 June 2019
A few hours before the visit, scheduled from 5am GMT, it was unclear whether or not Mr. Kim would go to the appointment.
“He really wants it,” Donald Trump said, adding that South Korean President Moon Jae-in would accompany him no matter what happens at the border.
“It will be very short but it does not matter. A handshake means a lot”
Third summit between the two men
At a joint press conference with his host, Moon finally announced that the much-anticipated handshake would take place.
“The leaders of the United States and North Korea will shake hands for peace in Panmunjom, the symbolic place of division,” said Moon, referring to the village where the 1953 armistice was signed.
“We are going to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and I am going to meet President Kim. I am very happy about it, “said Donald Trump.
This will be the third summit between the two men since their historic meeting in Singapore in June 2018 and the failed meeting in Hanoi in February.
Mr. Donald Trump had the idea of becoming the first American president in office to tread the soil of the Stalinist regime and to enter once again into history.
Kim Jong Un himself crossed the border last year at his first DMZ summit with his South Korean counterpart. “I would be very comfortable doing it, it would not be a problem for me,” said Donald Trump himself on Saturday.
“Suspension” against dismantling?
In the opinion of experts, the meeting should not be enough to solve the delicate issue of the denuclearization of North Korea, which stumbles the rapprochement with Washington. The Trump administration demands that Pyongyang permanently give up its nuclear program before considering lifting international sanctions, which the North refuses.
“If this event had happened more than a year ago, it could have been considered a psychological breakthrough,” said US researcher Joshua Pollack of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
“A meeting for the cameras and without a day order will do nothing to erase a year of illusions and disappointments”
To relaunch the negotiations, it would be “something more than a one-page letter and a new handshake,” says the expert, referring to the correspondence between MM. Kim and Trump.
According to Harry J. Kazianis, Korea specialist at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington think tank, Donald Trump could, however, take advantage of his visit to the peninsula to offer to “suspend” some of the UN sanctions, in exchange for total dismantling of Yongbyon, the main nuclear test centre in the North.
“Such a formulation would give Pyongyang the economic incentive it needs to revive its economy while giving Trump a great diplomatic victory as tensions mount around the world, whether with the allies or the enemies of the world. The United States, “he observes.
With the exception of George Bush Sr., all US presidents paid a visit loaded with symbols on the DMZ. Donald Trump should have sacrificed tradition during his first visit to South Korea in 2017, but the fog had prevented his helicopter from landing.