Thursday, 6 Aug 2020

Trump to meet Kim Jong Un at DMZ, to have 'handshake for peace'

SEOUL – United States President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas on Sunday (June 30) afternoon, after an invitation by Mr Trump on Saturday was accepted by Mr Kim.

“We’re going to the DMZ border and I’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim. I look forward to it very much,” Mr Trump told reporters in Seoul. “We’ve developed a very good relationship.”

Mr Trump is slated to make his first visit to the DMZ after a meeting and working lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will be accompanying him to the DMZ.

“The leaders of the US and North Korea will have a handshake for peace standing at Panmunjom, the symbol of division,” Mr Moon said, referring to the “truce village” in the DMZ.

“It would be a historic event in itself,” Mr Moon added. “Not only for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, but also for a permanent peace in the region, it’ll be very meaningful.”

In opening remarks to the media on Sunday, Mr Trump said that Mr Kim is keen on the impromptu meeting which the US leader first raised in a Twitter message on Saturday morning. “Chairman Kim wants to do it, I’d like to do it,” he said.

Mr Trump said he will step across the border into North Korea – making him the first sitting US President to do so.

The meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim would mark the third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since they embarked on dialogue in June last year aimed at normalising ties and ending the North’s nuclear programme. Talks have stalled since February, when the two sides failed to narrow their differences over how to advance the denuclearisation process.

Mr Moon, who has been mediating the US-North Korea talks, said Mr Trump’s Twitter invitation to Mr Kim gave hope to the world and “a flower of peace is blossoming”.

However, he was careful to add that although he will accompany Mr Trump to the DMZ, the focus should be on US-North dialogue, and he wished they would make great progress.

Mr Moon said on Sunday that if Mr Kim were to “sincerely, completely” dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility, the international community would be able to discuss easing sanctions.

“It’ll be the starting point for an irreversible denuclearisation,” said Mr Moon.

The 250km-long, 4km-wide DMZ is a symbol of division after the halt of the 1950-53 Korean War, which saw the US aiding the South while China supported the North.

Though heavily guarded, there is a truce village called Panmunjom on the border that allows tourist visits. It also played host to two summits between Mr Moon and Mr Kim.

North Korea closed the area to tourists on Sunday, amid talk of a Trump-Kim meeting there, according to North Korean tour agency Koryo Tours.

The distance between Pyongyang and Panmunjom is 177km, and a journey by car would take about two hours.

Mr Trump wanted to visit the DMZ during his previous trip to South Korea in November 2017, but the visit was cancelled due to bad weather.

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