© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Trump Meets Kim At DMZ


President Trump today became the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea. He met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone that separates the North and South. And afterward, he announced the two countries agreed to sit down again to discuss the North's nuclear weapons program, all of this allegedly prompted by a presidential tweet Saturday morning asking Kim to meet. NPR's Michael Sullivan joins me now from Seoul.

Michael, can you describe the scene for us?

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Yes, it was a master class in showmanship, a beaming Kim walking over from his side to shake hands with President Trump at the line of demarcation. Then, according to Trump, he asked Kim if he wanted the two of them to walk into North Korea. And Kim happily agreed. So they walked about a dozen steps in, stopped and shook hands for the cameras again.

In a scene carried live around the world, both men were smiling. And they continued to, as they walked back together into South Korea, where they were greeted by South Korean President Moon Jae-In. President Trump called it a historic moment.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just want to say that this is my honor. I didn't really expect it. We were in Japan for the G-20. We came over, and I said, hey, I'm over here. I want to call Chairman Kim. And we got to meet. And stepping across that line was a great honor. A lot of progress has been made.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, going into this meeting - in fact, just hours before, President Trump was lowering expectations, suggesting they'd just shake hands, maybe talk for a few minutes, and that would be it. But that wasn't how it played out.

SULLIVAN: No, not at all. In fact, President Trump and Kim sat talking for almost an hour. And after that meeting, after Kim had walked back to his own country, President Trump told reporters that the two sides would resume talks on North Korea's nuclear program within - in his words - the next two or three weeks.


TRUMP: We just had a very, very good meeting with Chairman Kim. And we've agreed that we're each going to designate a team. And the team will try and work out some details. And again, speed is not the object. We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive, good deal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this wasn't just a photo op, then, as had been predicted by some.

SULLIVAN: Apparently not. After the failure of their second summit a few months ago in Hanoi, with the two sides far apart on who would do what first - the North giving up its weapons or the U.S. easing sanctions - the two sides hadn't really been talking much. But something apparently changed, Lulu, in the past few weeks, after Kim sent what administration officials have described as a birthday card to Trump. And Trump sent a letter in return.

And after today's meeting with Chairman Kim, Trump said sanctions on the North would remain. But he did seem to dangle a carrot for Kim just before Trump left today.


TRUMP: I don't like sanctions being on his country. I'm looking forward. But the sanctions remain, yes. But at some point during the negotiation, things can happen. And that's when we'll be talking about sanctions, OK?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Michael, that appears to be something of a concession, right? The U.S. has consistently maintained there would be no sanctions relief until North Korea completely denuclearizes.

SULLIVAN: Right. And I guess that'll be worked out once they restart negotiations in the next couple of weeks, right? But today Kim was all smiles, and why not? I mean, President Trump walking into North Korea was definitely a propaganda coup. Kim also said that despite the letters, he too was surprised by President Trump's tweeted invite on Saturday morning.



SULLIVAN: "If it weren't for the excellent relationship between us," Kim said, "this meeting wouldn't have happened." He called the president's gesture to cross into North Korea an expression of President Trump's extraordinary determination to move beyond the bad past and open a new, good future. But of course, that's what some were hoping would happen at the second summit in Hanoi a few months ago, right? And look at how that turned out. So all in all, though, it was an extraordinary day of showmanship, at the very least.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Michael Sullivas (ph) - Sullivan, joining us from Seoul.

Thanks very much.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.