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Dagyum Ji and Oliver Hotham
Dagyum Ji is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul. Oliver Hotham is Managing Editor of NK News.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday confirmed that he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Panmunjom peace village later in the day.
Speaking a joint press conference following a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the President said he would soon depart for the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to hold talks with Kim.
“I’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim, I look forward to it very much, I look forward to seeing him. We’ve developed a very good relationship, and we understand each other I do believe, he understands me and I think I maybe understand him, and sometimes that can lead to very good things,” President Trump said.
The U.S. President first raised the possibility of an impromptu round of talks with Kim Jong Un at the DMZ this weekend in a surprise tweet on Saturday morning.
This afternoon’s meeting will be the third between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, as well as the third between a sitting U.S. President and a North Korean leader in history.
It would also be the first between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea since February, when a summit between the two in Hanoi fell apart amid disagreement over sanctions.
Trump pushed back against perception of the Hanoi summit as a failure, however, saying Sunday that he and Kim “had a great meeting in Vietnam, people don’t realize it, it’s all part of the whole negotiation.”
“I think frankly the meeting in Vietnam in terms of a deal was more important than Singapore,” he added.
Should the meeting take place on the North Korean side of the DMZ, too, President Trump would be the first American leader to step foot in DPRK-controlled territory in history.
One expert told NK News today’s meeting was set to be “historic, especially if Trump crosses the MDL.”
“The two sides will be happy to replace the bitter after taste of Hanoi with something sweeter,” said Ankit Panda, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at Federation of American Scientists and a contributing analyst to NK News‘s sister site NK Pro.
“That said, unless Trump conveys to Kim that he is ready for serious talks on a step-by-step denuclearization-for-sanctions-relief process, further follow-up may be unlikely.”
Both sides were during the joint press conference keen to stress that today’s meeting would not represent a “summit,” though President Trump stressed he believed the talks would represent a “step in the right direction.”
“There’s a good feeling, so it could be very good,” he said. “As far as another meeting, I think let’s see what happens today before we start thinking about that, but it could be very important.”
Reiterating previous comments criticizing his predecessor’s policy on North Korea, Trump stressed DPRK-U.S. relations had “made tremendous strides, only the fake news says that there weren’t.”
“We are so far advanced from where we were two and a half years ago,” he said.
Speaking at the joint press conference, South Korean President Moon hailed his U.S. counterpart as a “hero of the peace process on the Korean peninsula and peacemaker of the Korean peninsula.”
The U.S. and North Korean leaders, he continued, were set to “stand face to face and shake hands for peace” at the truce village of Panmunjom, which he described as a “symbol of the division” 66 years after the ceasefire which end the Korean War.
The Korean peninsula was drawing the “most attention on earth,” Moon said, confirming that he has been invited to the DMZ meeting between Trump and Kim.
“We will see today that if the parties communicate and talk with each other, it can lead to a great situation,” Moon said.
“South and North Korea will be assured peace, and the world will send support to President Trump and Chairman Kim.”
The South Korean President reiterated what Seoul “truly wants is permanent peace on the Korean peninsula,” continuing that he “sincerely hopes that President Trump will be remembered as the President who achieved peace of the Korean peninsula.”
Moon also expressed his “gratitude” towards Trump and Kim for their “courage.”
“Peace requires more courage than conflict… my heart is full as the Korean peninsula can show the way to peace,” the South Korean President said.
“Continuous dialogue is the only realistic way of achieving the complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.”
Moon, however, stressed that today’s meeting would largely focus on DPRK-U.S. dialogue and not inter-Korean issues.
“I think meeting and dialogue between President Trump and chairman Kim Jong Un will have a great significance… from the perspective that it will lead to a continuous dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. in the future,” he said.
When asked about recent comments by North Korea dismissing South Korea’s role as a mediator between the U.S. and the DPRK, Moon stressed “there is no other way to make peace except for dialogue.”
“We have tried to resolve issues through dialogue,” he said.
Additional reporting by Colin Zwirko
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun