2019 Koreas–United States DMZ Summit
The 2019 Koreas–United States DMZ Summit was a one-day summit held at the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un, U.S. president Donald Trump, and South Korean president Moon Jae-in, following the 2019 G20 Osaka summit. Trump stepped over the border at 3:45 PM (GMT+9) on June 30, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president had set foot on North Korean soil. Trump's daughter and son-in-law, presidential advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, also attended the summit, with Ivanka Trump and Harry B. Harris Jr. holding a meeting with Kim later broadcast on North Korean TV.
|2019 Koreas–United States DMZ summit|
Trump (left), Kim (center), and Moon (right) talking together in the DMZ.
|Host country|| South Korea|
|Date||June 30, 2019|
|Venue(s)||Freedom House, Panmunjom, Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)|
|Participants|| Moon Jae-in|
|Follows||2019 North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit|
A number of other sitting U.S. presidents had previously traveled to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and seen North Korea through binoculars, but none had previously met the leaders of North Korea or actually traveled within North Korean territory.
Trump and Kim held talks on February 27 and 28, 2019, in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, regarding the nuclear issue. At Hanoi, North Korea sought the removal of all significant economic sanctions; in return, it proposed partially reducing its capacity to construct new nuclear weapons, while retaining its existing nuclear arsenal. Trump, meanwhile, offered economic aid to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization. The two countries did not come to agreement, and talks eventually collapsed. In the aftermath of Hanoi, North Korean state media "angrily denounced the U.S. position" but "refrained from criticizing Trump directly and even referred to the positive relationship between the two leaders, a sentiment consistently echoed by Trump himself."
On June 12, 2019, Trump told reporters that he received a "beautiful letter" from Kim that was "very personal, very warm, very nice," praised Kim's leadership, and said that the letter was a sign that talks would resume. Kim received a reply from Trump on June 23, 2019, which Kim praised as "excellent"; North Korean state media stated that "Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content."
On June 24, 2019, the Blue House confirmed that Trump would be making a visit to South Korea on June 30 and that the White House was trying to schedule a visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. On the morning of June 29, Trump, who was attending G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, tweeted, "If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!" Five hours later, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho asked the U.S. to issue a formal notice. On the evening of the same day, Ri Yong-ho met with Stephen Biegun, the U.S. State Department's Special Representative for North Korea, at Panmunjom, in preparation for the summit. During the South Korea–U.S. Summit, South Korean president Moon Jae-in announced that Trump would be meeting Kim during his visit at the DMZ. Moon predicted that a handshake between Trump and Kim at the DMZ would be a "milestone" for denuclearization efforts on the peninsula.
Although the meeting was billed as a spontaneous or impromptu meeting, Kim and Trump had exchanged letters earlier in the month. Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University "said it was inconceivable that the leaders of two powerful nations had arranged a meeting at such short notice. He described it as a 'show' designed to send a political message without raising expectations about actual progress."
Following the conclusions of the 2019 G20 Osaka summit in Japan, on June 30, 2019, Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in visited the DMZ before the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim invited Trump to cross the border line, and Trump briefly crossed in North Korea before crossing back into South Korea together with Kim. Trump thus became the first U.S. president to enter North Korea.[a] Before crossing into North Korea, Kim told Trump in English, "it's good to see you again" and "I never expected to meet you at this place", and shook hands with Trump. Trump said it was "my honor" to enter North Korea. During their meeting, Trump also invited Kim to the White House, although later acknowledged that this would probably not occur in the near term. Trump said of Kim: "A lot of really great things are happening, tremendous things. We met and we liked each other from Day One, and that was very important." Moon later joined Trump and Kim, and the three spoke for a brief moment before Kim and Trump held a 53-minute-long private meeting inside the Freedom House.
Trump's top advisor Ivanka Trump, senior advisor Jared Kushner, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and United States ambassador to South Korea Harry B. Harris, Jr., accompanied Trump to the DMZ. Ivanka Trump joined the president in his meeting with Kim. Moon did not attend; the North Korean Foreign Ministry had announced a week before that he was not welcome, telling South Korean authorities to "mind their own business at home".
In remarks after the meeting, Kim said, "By meeting here, which is a symbol of division, the symbol of a hostile past...we are presenting to the world that we have a new present, and this is announcing to the world that we will have positive meetings going forward."
Following the nuclear summit, both sides had announced the resumption of "working-level" nuclear talks. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo said that Trump administration negotiators would meet North Korean counterparts to resume denuclearization talks in mid-July. U.S. special envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, would lead the U.S. negotiators; the North Korean lead negotiator has not been appointed, although senior diplomat Choe Son-hui was viewed as a likely choice.
David E. Sanger and Michael Crowley, in an analysis for the New York Times, wrote that in the lead-up to the meeting, Trump administration officials had been internally considering the prospect that a new round of U.S.–North Korea negotiations could lead to the U.S. accepting "a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo, and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power," rather than complete denuclearization. Under this possible outcome, North Korea would halt the growth of its nuclear arsenal, but would not dismantle any of the estimated 20–60 existing nuclear weapons already in its stockpile, and would not curb its ballistic missile capabilities. Biegun said that commentary about possible outcomes was speculative and said he was "not preparing any new proposal currently".
On July 11, United Nations Command released its official strategic assessment about North Korea's ICBM capabilities, finding that the North's Hwasong-14 and 15 are capable of striking most or all of the mainland United States.
In his June 2018 meeting in Singapore with Kim, Trump pledged to end what he called "very provocative" joint U.S.–South Korea military exercises; the U.S. subsequently scaled back the number and scope of exercises to "support diplomatic efforts" but did not cease doing them altogether. On July 16, 2019, following the DMZ meeting North Korea's foreign ministry accused the U.S. of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" and suggested that it could resume nuclear and missile testing and cancel plans for talks if planned joint U.S.–South Korean military exercises moved forward. On the same day, Trump said that "time is not of the essence" and that he was "in absolutely no hurry." One week later, Kim inspected a new North Korean submarine, which analysts believe is designed with the capability of carrying ballistic missiles; Kim again warned the U.S. against holding its annual military drills with South Korea. The dispute over the planned exercises stalled plans for U.S.–North Korea nuclear talks and raised questions about whether the talks would go forward at all.
Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University stated that both Kim and Trump "needed something that is strong on optics but weak on substance" and that the DMZ meeting was intended to convey a political message without raising expectations about progress toward an actual agreement on the North Korean nuclear issue.
The meeting was "broadly welcomed in South Korean political circles," including from the ruling Democratic Party (whose chairman called it "another milestone toward peace on the Korean Peninsula") and the conservative Liberty Korea Party, the main opposition party.
North Korean state media praised Trump's visit as "historic" and "an amazing event", and extensively covered the event for KCNA, the state TV network, and Rodong Sinmun, a state newspaper. Kim was quoted in the Rodong Sinmun as saying that "a dramatic meeting like today could take place in one day due to my excellent friendly relationship with President Trump." Anna Fifield of the Washington Post and Nic Robertson of CNN described the meeting as an important propaganda victory for Kim.
During a news conference with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, Trump falsely claimed that "President Obama wanted to meet and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting." Former Trump administration deputy national security advisor K.T. McFarland compared the Trump–Kim DMZ meeting to the Nixon–Mao meeting in 1972, dismissed critics of the meeting, and said "If Kim doesn't deliver on this, I think he may have potential problems within his own leadership cadre."
A number of Democratic members of the U.S. Congress, candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, and general critics of Trump criticized his decision to meet with Kim. The Joe Biden campaign denounced Trump for "coddling" dictators while making "numerous concessions for negligible gain"; candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted, "Our president shouldn’t be squandering American influence on photo ops and exchanging love letters with a ruthless dictator." Critics also took exception to the president's decision to meet with Kim two years after the death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was arrested and imprisoned by North Korea after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster, and suffered a fatal brain injury in North Korean captivity.
U.S. foreign policy analysts were generally critical of the meeting. Jean H. Lee, the director of the Center for Korean History & Public Policy, wrote that, "There's a reason why past presidents chose not to go to North Korea while in office: Such visits grant enormous legitimacy to the Kims." Samantha Vinograd, a member of the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said that by meeting Kim at the DMZ without preconditions attached, Trump was signaling that North Korea was "a normalized, nuclear power." Analyst, columnist, and frequent Trump critic Max Boot wrote that the DMZ meeting was "symbolism utterly devoid of substance" and argued that Kim had taken advantage of a "gullible" Trump to improve his own legitimacy. Commentator S. Nathan Park, however, viewed the third Trump–Kim meeting as a positive trust-building event that could be viewed as "necessary to get the working level talks back on track." Park wrote that although "one must be clear-eyed to the reality that a tangible result has not yet materialized in Trump's North Korea diplomacy," patience could lead to more concrete impacts.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi called the Kim–Trump DMZ meeting a "rare opportunity for peace" and said that Chinese president Xi Jinping had urged the U.S. to "show flexibility" by easing its sanctions against North Korea in gradual "action-for-action" phases, rather than offering sanctions relief only upon complete nuclear disarmament. Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank, said that in meetings between Kim and Xi in North Korea, "Xi pledged economic cooperation and a security guarantee to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang's continued effort on denuclearization negotiations." Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, agreed that Xi had facilitated the Trump–Kim meeting.
- 2018–19 Korean peace process
- List of international trips made by Kim Jong-un
- 2017–18 North Korea crisis
- Kim–Xi meetings
- Kim–Putin meetings
- Inter-Korean summits
- April 2018 inter-Korean summit
- 2018 North Korea–United States Singapore Summit
- 2019 North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit
- North Korea–United States relations
- South Korea–United States relations
- North Korea–South Korea relations
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- Media related to 2019 Koreas–United States DMZ summit at Wikimedia Commons