SEOUL—Donald J. Trump has become the first President of the United States to step foot into North Korea after being welcomed to cross the demarcation line at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The gesture, called “truly historic” by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, marked an unprecedented show of respect and growing friendship between the United States and North Korea that has caught many political pundits by surprise.
The extraordinary event took place on June 30 as Trump visited Korea on his way home from the G-20 summit.
Kim, looking relaxed, said through an interpreter that he had come to meet Trump because he was “willing to put an end to the unfortunate past” and that if it wasn’t for the “excellent relations between the two of us,” this opportunity would not be possible.
Trump had expressed a similar sentiment, saying that his personal relationship with Kim remained strong.
“There’s a good feeling, I just feel we have a very good relationship—the two of us. I don’t know about beyond the two of us, but I can say the two of us so we’ll see how it all goes.”
After a brief trip into North Korea, Trump walked with Kim back into South Korea where South Korean President Moon Jae-in greeted Kim and all three leaders entered “Freedom House,” also known as “Peace House,” in the Joint Security Area in the village of Panmunjom straddling the border.
Trump and Kim then had a bilateral meeting that lasted more than 45 minutes.
“It’s a great day for the world,” Trump said.
Trump also said Sunday morning that he would “pay my respect to the soldiers” during this visit the DMZ.
He thanked Kim for responding to his Twitter post, saying that there was always the risk of Kim turning down his invitation to meet, in which case he would have looked very bad in front of the media.
Trump also thanked Kim for inviting him to step over the line into North Korea.
“I was proud to step over the time, I want to thank you … a very historic moment.”
When questioned by reporters about any changes to the sanctions on North Korea, Trump said, “The sanctions remain, but at some point during the negotiations things can happen.”
Kim told reporters that he was “surprised” to see the President’s message on Twitter Saturday inviting him to meet at the border.
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) June 28, 2019
Kim said he took the invitation as “an expression of his [Trump’s] willingness” to work towards a new future, adding that it would be a great honor if Trump visited his capital of Pyongyang.
The two leaders have exchanged a number of personal letters throughout the diplomatic process aimed at denuclearizing and stabilizing the Korean Peninsula, with Kim commenting that Trump’s latest letter contained “excellent content,” KCNA reported on June 23.
Kim praised Trump’s letter just days after meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The two leaders discussed the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula, according to North Korean state media.
Bonnie Glaser, Asia analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told South Korea’s conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo, “After months of an impasse in the negotiations and little contact between the United States and North Korea, it appears there is some diplomatic maneuvering underway.
“[It is] unclear yet whether Xi’s visit to Pyongyang played a role, or whether other factors are at play,” she added.
Push for Lasting Peace
Earlier on Sunday, Trump again criticized “Fake News media” reports, saying that they had failed to report on how the DMZ had changed since the Singapore summit in June 2018 before which there had been“great conflict.”
“It’s day and night,” he said. “North Korea and South Korea are both in much better places than they were two and a half years ago.”
He continued, “At home, they think that I’m a tough ‘war monger.’ They thought that when I got elected, within the first year, we’d be in World War III.
“In my opinion, had President Obama, or somebody like President Obama … had it worked that way, I honestly believe you would have been at war with North Korea.”
The DMZ—a 160-mile long, 2.5-mile wide strip of land—was created as a buffer between the North and South in the 1953 armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War.
While the two Koreas are technically still at war, Kim and Moon signed the Panmunjom Declaration on April 27, 2018, marking their intention for “permanent” and “solid” peace on the Korean peninsula. The historic agreement also included an agreement for denuclearization of the entire peninsula.
Before the signing of the declaration, Kim had invited Moon to step across the DMZ demarcation line. Moon returned the gesture, which Kim accepted, making him the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The war on the Korean Peninsula claimed the lives of 36,574 Americans who fought to prevent the spread of communism through Korea pushed by the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). More than 100,000 Americans were also badly wounded and 7,702 are still missing in action, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
By the end of the Korean War, casualties on the Chinese side were estimated to be over a million. South Korea lost around a million civilians and 217,000 military personnel after Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, ordered the invasion of the south. North Korea lost an estimated 600,000 civilians and 406,000 military personnel in the war.
With reporting by The Associated Press.
From The Epoch Times