In Historic First, Trump Crosses Into North Korea in Meeting With Kim

'It's a great day for the world,' U.S. president says as leaders meet at Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas on Sunday, shaking hands warmly and both expressing hopes for peace. 

It was the third meeting between the two leaders in just over a year and will raise hopes for a revival of stalled nuclear talks. 

Trump, escorted by Kim, briefly crossed a military demarcation line that had for years represented a tense Cold War border, into the North, becoming the first ever sitting U.S. president to set foot in the reclusive country. 

Moments later they returned to the South Korean side and joined President Moon Jae-in for a brief chat, marking an unprecedented three-way gathering. Trump and Kim then held a bilateral closed-door meeting. 

"It's a great day for the world," Trump said as he and Kim stood together amidst a throng of press photographers, aides and bodyguards. 

Kim looked relaxed and happy as he chatted with Trump. 

"This is an expression of his willingness" to work towards a new future, Kim said. 

Kim said it would be a great honour if Trump visited his capital of Pyongyang. 

"To cross that line was a great honour," Trump said, referring to his brief incursion into the North Korean side of the DMZ. 

Trump arrived in South Korea late on Saturday for talks with President Moon Jae-in after attending a Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, during which he made a surprise, spur-of-the-moment offer to meet Kim, who accepted it. 

Trump views North Korea from the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, June 30, 2019.
Susan Walsh/AP

Trump and Kim met in the so-called Joint Security Area (JSA), which is patrolled by soldiers from both Koreas. Moon joined the two after their initial handshakes. 

Trump and Kim met for the first time in Singapore in June last year, and agreed to improve relations and work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

But there has been little progress since then. 

A second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February broke down after the two sides failed to narrow differences between a U.S. demand for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and a North Korean demand for sanctions relief. 

Trump had earlier told Moon that he had "plenty of time" and was in "no rush" to reach a deal. 

North Korea has pursued nuclear and missile programs for years in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, and easing tensions with North Korea is one of the U.S. president's top foreign policy priorities.

Moon said before the meeting it would be the first time the United States and North Korea met at the border between the two Koreas since a ceasefire ending the Korean War was signed 66 years ago, Moon said.

"It's just a step," Trump told a joint news conference with Moon, adding that he thought he understood Kim. 

"Sometimes that can lead to good things," he said. 

Moon, who accompanied Trump on the visit to the heavily fortified border, said that a third summit between the United States and North Korea would depend on what happened on Sunday. 

Trump and South Korea's Moon at a joint press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, June 30, 2019.
Chung Sung-Jun/Pool Photo via AP

"Continuous dialogue is the only realistic way to accomplish complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Moon said. 

"President Trump is the peacemaker of the Korean peninsula." 

'No rush'

Trump said earlier both he and Kim were eager to meet. 

"It's going to be very short, virtually a handshake. But that's OK. A handshake means a lot," Trump said after a meeting with South Korean business leaders including the heads of Samsung, Hyundai Motor, Lotte, SK and Poongsan groups. 

He said he and Kim had a "good relationship" but there was still a long way to go to reach an agreement that would end the North's nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. 

Trump told Moon that he had "plenty of time" and was in "no rush" to reach a deal. 

Trump made the offer to meet in a message on Twitter about his visit to South Korea, saying he wanted "just to shake his hand and say 'Hello'." 

In response, the North's KCNA state news agency quoted a senior North Korean official several hours later saying it was a "very interesting suggestion" and would be a "meaningful occasion," but North Korea had not received an official proposal. 

The Joint Security Area, with its cluster of distinctive bright blue buildings, has a chequered history of defections, tension and death. In 1976, axe-wielding North Korean soldiers murdered two American soldiers who were cutting down a poplar tree there to secure a clear view. 

Support helicopters follow Marine One carrying Trump to the DMZ as they take off from Seoul, June 30, 2019.
Jacquelyn Martin/AFP

Trump, speaking at a news conference in Japan on Saturday, said he would be "very comfortable" stepping across the border into North Korea, as Moon did briefly last year. 

Some South Korean analysts said a Trump-Kim encounter would do little to advance progress on denuclearization. 

"Trump is trying to get a free hand in controlling peace on the Korean peninsula with his tweets and we can't let that happen," said Kim Dong-yup of Kyungnam University's Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. 

"It's a strategy and technique he adopted to deal with those who are in a weak position in negotiations, and that's for domestic politics."