President Donald Trump on Saturday invited North Korea's Kim Jong Un to shake hands during a visit by Trump to the demilitarized zone with South Korea, an offer that Kim called "a very interesting suggestion," brightening prospects for a third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.
The North's First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said that the meeting, if realized, would serve as "another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations."
Choe still said that North Korea hasn't received an official proposal for the DMZ meeting from the United States. Her statement was carried via the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
Trump is scheduled to fly to South Korea later Saturday after he concludes meetings at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, including with the president of China. He told reporters during a breakfast with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he would be visiting the heavily fortified area between the two Koreas.
"We're going there," the president said.
Shortly before the breakfast, Trump tweeted an invitation for Kim to meet him 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(?)!"
"All I did is put out a feeler if you'd like to meet," Trump said later of the invitation, adding that he's not sure of Kim's whereabouts.
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It was not immediately clear what the agenda, if any, would be for the potential third Trump-Kim meeting. Trump predicted that, "If he's there we'll see each other for two minutes." But such a meeting would present a valuable propaganda victory for Kim, who along with his family, has long been denied the recognition they sought on the international stage.
White House officials, who had ruled out such a possibility before Trump left Washington, did not immediately respond to requests as to whether Kim had already agreed to meet with Trump. Trump is scheduled to have dinner Saturday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Trump's summit with Kim in Vietnam earlier this year collapsed without an agreement for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. He became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the leader of the isolated nation last year in Singapore, where they signed a broad agreement to bring the North toward denuclearization.
Substantive talks between the two nations have largely broken down since then, as the North has balked at Trump's insistence that it give up its weapons before it sees relief from crushing international sanctions. Still, Trump has sought to publicly heap praise on Kim, who oversees an authoritarian government, in hopes of keeping a deal alive, and the two have traded flowery letters in recent weeks.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has visited the 1953 armistice line, except for George H.W. Bush, who visited when he was vice president.
The show of bravado and support for one of America's closest military allies has evolved over the years to include binoculars and bomber jackets.
Trump, ever the showman, appears to be looking to one-up his predecessors with a meeting with Kim.
As he left the White House for Asia earlier this week, Trump was asked whether he'd meet with Kim while he is in the region.
"I'll be meeting with a lot of other people ... but I may be speaking to him in a different form," Trump said.
Such trips to the demilitarized zone, the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea, are usually undertaken under heavy security and the utmost secrecy. Trump tried to visit the DMZ when he was in Seoul in November 2017, but his helicopter was grounded by heavy fog.