Trump enters North Korea, announces nuclear talks will resume

President Trump made history on Sunday by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to cross into North Korea, a symbolic gesture toward Kim Jong Un during a meeting at the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in which the two leaders agreed to restart stalled nuclear talks.

Trump and Kim afterward spoke privately for more than 50 minutes, turning what was supposed to be a brief exchange of pleasantries into a negotiating session in which Trump said they both agreed to “designate a team” and “work out some details” in his on-again, off-again effort to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“Speed is not the object. We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive, good deal,” Trump told reporters. “This was a great day. This was a very legendary, very historic day.”

“It’ll be even more historic if something comes up, something very important,” the president added.

Trump’s meeting with Kim was his first since nuclear talks broke down at a February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Major doubts still surround the negotiations and Kim’s willingness to surrender his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

But Trump was determined to show the public he can secure a nuclear deal with North Korea, which would be his biggest achievement on the world stage.

It came days after he agreed at the Group of 20 summit to reopen trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, pressing to secure another elusive deal and show voters he can be the dealmaker in chief ahead of his 2020 reelection race.

The history-making moment came at 3:45 p.m. Korea time, when Trump and Kim shook hands across a concrete slab that forms the line separating the North and South. At Kim’s request, Trump stepped over the line, and the two men walked back toward a plaza in the North, where they posed for photos.

“Good to see you again,” Kim said to Trump, according to a translator. “I never expected to see you in this place.”

“Good progress. Good progress,” Trump said as he and Kim crossed back into South Korea.

“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump said, adding that he would invite Kim to visit the White House.

The image-conscious Trump framed the gesture as a rebuttal to critics who say he will not be able to secure a deal with Kim.

“You don’t report it accurately, but that’s OK. Some day, history will record it accurately,” he said.

Trump and Kim met at the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the DMZ, where the North Korean leader said he was “willing to put an end to the unfortunate past.”

Kim said he was “surprised” when Trump made the invitation by tweet on Saturday but hailed the importance of the meeting as a sign of the “excellent relations between the two of us.”

“You hear the power of that voice” Trump said, adding that the North Korean leader “doesn’t do news conferences.”

“This is a historic moment, the fact that we’re meeting,” he added.

Trump later told U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, that he noticed that “many people … from Korea were literally in tears” when he crossed the DMZ but did not cite specific examples.

He also said during brief remarks to reporters that sanctions against Pyongyang remain in place but that “at some point during the negotiations things can happen.”

In a tweet before leaving South Korea, Trump described his meeting with Kim as “wonderful,” adding that standing on North Korean soil was “an important statement for all.”

Despite the historic nature of Trump’s visit to the Korean Peninsula, the outcome essentially got the U.S. and North Korea back to the same place they were before talks broke down four months ago.

The Hanoi summit collapsed when Trump refused to accept Kim’s offer of sanctions relief in exchange for shuttering the North’s largest nuclear facility. Washington is looking for far greater concessions from Pyongyang, including a full accounting of their nuclear stockpile, comprehensive inspections and eventually the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Before and during his trip to Asia, Trump had repeatedly hinted about the possibility of meeting with Kim.

The two leaders recently resumed contact. Trump said he received what he called a “beautiful letter” from Kim this month containing birthday greetings. In return, the president sent Kim a thank-you note and letter.

Trump first publicly suggested the possibility of a brief greeting with Kim at the DMZ in a tweet Friday.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill on Monday, Trump said he would be visiting the DMZ and that he “might” meet with Kim. The Hill delayed publishing news of the trip earlier in the week at the request of the White House, which cited security concerns about publicizing the president’s plans that far in advance.

Trump said Saturday that the North Korean leader was open to a meeting, but the president noted potential logistical challenges could prevent it from taking place.

Sunday’s meeting with Kim came after bad weather blocked Trump’s attempt to make a surprise visit to the DMZ in November 2017.

Trump considered meeting Kim there in 2018 before deciding to hold the first summit between the two leaders in Singapore.

[The Hill]

Trump tweets Kim Jong Un an invitation to ‘shake his hand’ at DMZ

President Donald Trump extended what he claimed was a spontaneous invitation to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for a handshake on the highly fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone, lending his upcoming visit to Seoul new drama.

In a Saturday morning tweet from his hotel in Japan, Trump said if Kim was interested he’d be open to a greeting on the border.”If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Trump wrote.

Trump is due to arrive in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday evening, and is scheduled for talks with the South Korean President on Sunday before returning to Washington.

During a brief photo-op with reporters Saturday, Trump said he “put out a feeler” to Kim for a potential handshake on the DMZ in order to advance their warm friendship.

“All I did was put out a feeler if he’d like to meet,” Trump told reporters in Japan, where he is meeting with leaders on the sidelines of the G20. “He sent me a very beautiful birthday card.

“Trump told reporters later Saturday that Kim was “very receptive to meeting.”

“I can’t tell you exactly but they did respond very favorably,” Trump said of the possibility of a meeting.Trump also told reporters he would feel “very comfortable” stepping foot in North Korea when he visits the DMZ Sunday.

“Sure I would,” Trump said when asked whether he would step foot into the country.”I feel very comfortable doing that. I would have no problem,” Trump said in Osaka.No sitting US president has ever visited North Korea, though former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have made the trip.

Trump also insisted it would not be a bad sign if Kim stands him up.”No, of course I thought of that,” Trump said when asked if it should be interpreted as a bad sign if Kim failed to meet him.”It’s very hard,” he said of the US-North Korea situation, noting that Kim “follows my Twitter.”Asked if he knew that to be a fact, Trump said his team “got a call very quickly” after his tweet.

[CNN]

Trump Afraid to Say He Doesn’t Trust Kim Jong Un Because ‘It Would Be Very Insulting To Him’

President Donald Trump said that even if he no longer trusted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, he would not say so because “it would be very insulting to him,” but thankfully for Kim’s feelings, Trump went on to say that he does still trust Kim.

In yet another telling exchange during his series of interviews with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump closely guarded the relationship he has cultivated with the dictator whom Trump says he has fallen “in love” with.

During a sit-down in the Rose Garden, Stephanopoulos asked Trump about his blunt declaration, one year ago, that “there’s no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

“But there is a nuclear threat today, isn’t there?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Well, it could change,” Trump replied. “I would say not much. There’s been no testing, no anything. But it could change.”

North Korea conducted two short-range missile tests within the space of a week in early May, which Trump would acknowledge during the interview.

“But they have stockpiles,” Stephanopoulos interrupted. A recent study estimated that North Korea possesses a stockpile of up to 30 nuclear warheads.

In an exchange that was edited from the broadcast of the interview, but included in the transcript, Trump then offered to show Stephanopoulos a letter he had received from Kim, and praised the dictator as “tough” and “smart.”

“I will actually show you the letter,” Trump said. “But– I’d show it to you a little bit off the record. But it was– a very nice letter. But I’ve received many very nice letters. And he’s a very tough guy. He’s a very smart person. He doesn’t treat a lot of people very well, but he’s been treating me well. Now, at some point that may change. And then I’ll have to change, too. But right now, we have a very good, you know, relationship. We have a really very strong relationship.”

“So you still trust him?” Stephanopoulos asked, a question which was included in the broadcast.

“Well, look, I, I don’t, I — first of all, if I didn’t, I couldn’t tell you that,” Trump said, adding “It would be very insulting to him.”

“But the answer is, yeah, I believe that he would like to do something,” Trump continued. “I believe he respects me. It doesn’t mean it’s going to get done. This has been going on for many, many decades with the family. But I get along with him really well, I think I understand him, and I think he understands me.”

Asked if he still believes Kim is building nuclear weapons, Trump replied: “I don’t know. I hope not. He promised me he wouldn’t be. He promised we– me he wouldn’t be testing.”

And in another portion that was edited from the broadcast, Trump said, “I think he’d like to meet again. And I think he likes me a lot. And I think– you know, I think that we have a chance to do something.”

Trump has gone out of his way to praise Kim Jong Un, and recently shared his love of heckling former Vice President Joe Biden with the dictator.

[Mediaite]

Trump praises Kim Jong Un, saying he received a ‘beautiful’ letter from him

Washington is seeking to rebuild momentum in stalled talks with Pyongyang, aimed at getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Trump and Kim last met early this year in Hanoi but failed to reach a denuclearization agreement.

Trump hailed what he called a “beautiful” letter he received from Kim. “I think that something will happen that’s going to be very positive,” he said, while giving no details.

Trump, who has described previous correspondence from Kim as “beautiful letters,” said the most recent one was a “very warm, very nice letter.” He repeated that he believes North Korea has “tremendous potential.”

After exchanging insults and war-like rhetoric with Kim early in his presidency, Trump in the past year has repeatedly praised him. They have held two summits as Trump tries to convert what he feels is a warm personal relationship into a diplomatic breakthrough.

North Korean state media called on the United States earlier on Tuesday to “withdraw its hostile policy” toward Pyongyang or agreements made at their first summit in Singapore might become “a blank sheet of paper”.

Trump, speaking a day before the one-year anniversary of their landmark Singapore summit, did not rule out another meeting with Kim. He is due to travel to Japan and South Korea later this month.

Trump said Kim had thus far kept his promises not to test long-range ballistic missiles or conduct underground nuclear tests.

“He’s kept his word to me. That’s very important,” said Trump.

In May, North Korea conducted a “strike drill” for multiple launchers, firing tactical guided weapons in a military drill supervised by Kim.

Trump said at the time that those launches did not pose a problem in his eyes, although his advisers called them a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions

[Reuters]

Trump says Kim has ‘kept his word’ hours after Bolton said he hasn’t

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “kept his word” when it comes to nuclear and missile testing, contradicting his own national security adviser, John Bolton, who just hours earlier had accused Pyongyang of failing to follow through on its commitments.

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said he had received a warm letter from Kim before again downplaying North Korea’s latest test of a short-range ballistic missile — a move Bolton and acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan have said violated UN resolutions.

“He kept his word. There’s no nuclear testing. There’s no large, there’s no long-range missiles going up. The only things he’s set up were very short term, short range. That was just a test of short range. It’s a whole different deal, but he’s kept his word to me. That’s very important,” the President said.

Earlier Tuesday, Bolton had told the Wall Street Journal at a speaking event in Washington that North Korea is not complying with the terms agreed upon during Trump’s first summit with Kim, in Singapore last year.

“What they’ve said was that they’re not going to test ballistic missiles, intercontinental range ballistic missiles, or have nuclear tests. That’s continued. They’re doing a lot of other things that still indicate that they have not made a strategic decision to give up the pursuit of deliverable weapons, which is why we continue the maximum pressure campaign,” Bolton said.

In May, Bolton said that “there is no doubt” the tests violated the UN resolutions, something Shanahan has also said publicly.

But that conclusion is at odds with Trump’s own assertions.

“My people think it could have been a violation,” Trump said in May. “I view it differently.”

The President added that he thinks Kim could be a man “who wants to get attention,” but said there are no nuclear tests or long-range missiles being fired, something he again pointed out Tuesday.

Trump claims remains ‘keep coming back’

Trump also claimed Tuesday that the remains of US soldiers in North Korea “keep coming back,” despite the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency telling CNN in May that the effort was suspended due to a lack of communication from North Korean officials following the second summit between the two leaders, in Hanoi, Vietnam, earlier this year.

“We have a very good relationship together,” Trump said of Kim. “Now I can confirm it because of the letter I got yesterday, and I think something will happen that’s going to be very positive. But in the meantime, we have our hostages back, the remains keep coming back, we have a relationship.”

The return of American remains was part of the US-North Korea agreement reached during Kim and Trump’s Singapore summit.

Following the summit, North Korea handed over 55 cases of presumed remains of US service members killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

“DPRK officials have not communicated with DPAA since the Hanoi summit,” Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, said in May.

“As a result, our efforts to communicate with the Korean People’s Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operations for 2019 has been suspended,” he added.

‘I wouldn’t let that happen’

Trump would not confirm reports that Kim Jong Un’s half brother was a CIA asset Tuesday but said he would tell Kim that “would not happen under my auspice.”

“I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half brother and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspice, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices,” he said when asked about details published by the Wall Street Journal.

The CIA operative claims are also described in a book by Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield published on Tuesday. “The Great Successor,” about Kim Jong Un, details meetings between Kim Jong Nam and his handlers in the two countries. The CIA has declined to comment to CNN.

When asked if the CIA was wrong to use Kim’s half-brother as an asset if it did indeed do so, Trump said: “I don’t know anything about that. I know this, that the relationship is such that that wouldn’t happen under my auspices, but I don’t know about that. Nobody knows.”

[CNN]

Trump promises not to use Kim Jong Un’s family members as CIA assets

President Donald Trump promised Tuesday not to use Kim Jong Un’s family members as intelligence assets, and reassured the North Korean dictator of his commitment to detente.

A report released Monday showed Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, met with Central Intelligence Agency contacts in Malaysia back in 2017 shortly before he was assassinated.

A Wall Street Journal story entitled “North Korean Leader’s Slain Half Brother Was A CIA Source” claims a “person knowledgeable about the matter” confirmed he was feeding intelligence to American officials.

Trump referred to his current relationship with Kim during an exchange with reporters outside Marine One Tuesday, saying he believes the two still have a strong relationship.

“I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Speaking to the press pool, Trump said, “I think the relationship is very well, but I appreciated the letter. I saw the information about the CIA with regard to his brother or half brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”

Kim Jong Nam was murdered in February of 2017 when two women smudged his face with VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

In March, the Malaysian attorney general dropped the murder charge against Siti Aisyah, following high-level lobbying from Jakarta and Doan Thi Huong was released in May.

The two women have also been accused of conspiring with four North Koreans who prosecutors said have left the country, AP reported.

[Fox News]

Trump claims he was ‘sticking up for’ Biden with ‘low IQ’ comment

President Trump on Tuesday offered what appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek defense of his criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden while traveling in Japan, which triggered bipartisan blowback against the president.

“I was actually sticking up for Sleepy Joe Biden while on foreign soil. Kim Jong Un called him a ‘low IQ idiot,’ and many other things, whereas I related the quote of Chairman Kim as a much softer “low IQ individual.’ Who could possibly be upset with that?” the president tweeted. 

Trump appeared to be responding to Biden’s presidential campaign, which earlier Tuesday blasted the president for agreeing with the North Korean leader’s criticism of his potential 2020 White House rival as having a “low IQ.”

Biden campaign official Kate Bedingfield called Trump’s attacks “beneath the dignity of the office” and said “to be on foreign soil, on Memorial Day, and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former vice president speaks for itself.”

Trump has repeatedly hammered Biden as the former vice president has solidified his position at the top of the Democratic presidential primary field. But Trump’s latest comments drew pointed criticism because he made them while overseas, his latest violation of the norm that domestic politics stop at the water’s edge.

“Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that,” Trump said during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump first stated his agreement with Kim’s attack on Biden in a Saturday tweet in which he brushed aside North Korea’s short-range missile test that was condemned by the U.S. and its allies.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?” Trump tweeted.

[The Hill]

Trump plays down North Korea’s missile test, putting him at odds with Abe

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday he doesn’t view North Korea’s short range missile tests as disturbing, a view deeply at odds with his Japanese hosts and in conflict with statements made a day earlier by his national security adviser.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

This is a major blow ahead of his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which are set to begin in a few hours.

The Japanese government has said North Korea’s recent test of short range missiles violated UN resolutions — a determination that national security adviser John Bolton agreed with in Tokyo on Saturday during a briefing with reporters before Trump arrived in Japan.

In his tweet, Trump went on to say he smiled when North Korea called former Vice President Joe Biden a low IQ individual.

“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Bidan (sic) a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”

[CNN]

Trump breaks with Bolton and Abe on North Korea’s missile tests

Earlier this month, North Korea conducted two tests of short-range ballistic missiles, ending an 18-month break in provocations. Many analysts viewed the tests as (literal) warning shots to Trump that Pyongyang is very, very unhappy that months of nuclear talks have produced few tangible results.

The two tests prompted Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton to tell reporters in Tokyo on Saturday that there was “no doubt” North Korea violated United Nations resolutions barring such launches, effectively making the case that they were a severe provocation.

But Trump, who has spent months trying to strike a nuclear deal with Kim, brushed those concerns aside.

“My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently,” Trump said, with Bolton sitting only a few feet away during the joint press conference with Abe. “There have been no ballistic missiles going out,” he continued, going against even the Pentagon’s assessment. “There have been no long-range missiles going out. And I think that someday we’ll have a deal. I’m not in a rush.”

The Japanese prime minister had a different take, though. “North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile. This is violating the Security Council resolution,” Abe said. “So my reaction is, as I said earlier on, it is of great regret,” he continued, making sure still to give credit to Trump for engaging diplomatically with Kim.

That moment was, to put it mildly, troubling.

Japan, a staunch US ally, is the country that is among the most directly threatened by North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile programs. North Korea views Japan, its former colonizer, as a mortal enemy, and many of the missiles the country tests land near — or even fly directly over — Japan (although the last two tests didn’t threaten Japan at all).

At a time like this, the US president would normally stand firmly alongside the Japanese prime minister and state unequivocally that North Korea should stop conducting tests of weapons that could kill thousands of Japanese people. Instead, Trump’s avid desire for a deal with Kim led to a massive break in Washington and Tokyo’s position on a top national security issue for both capitals.

Put together, Monday’s press conference was an unmitigated disaster for Trump. It would be an extraordinary event if it weren’t already so ordinary.

[Vox]

Reality

Remember Trump said North Korea promised him no more missile launches, after their 2018 summit.


Trump sides with Kim Jong Un over Joe Biden in Japan

President Donald Trump seems to have a new ally in his 2020 reelection fight: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. More shocking, though, is that Trump appears fine with it — and is siding with the brutal dictator over a fellow American.

Last week, the state-run Korean Central News Agency published a scathing article targeting top Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden. Among other insults, the commentary called the former vice president “a fool of low IQ” and listed off a series of embarrassing moments in his life — like the time Biden fell asleep during a 2011 speech by then-President Barack Obama, or how in 1987 he admitted to plagiarizing in school.

Trump seemed delighted by the KCNA hit piece, tweeting Sunday that he had “confidence” Kim had “smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse.”

And asked about his tweet during a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo* the next day, Trump reiterated his stance. “Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that,” the president told reporters.

Just stop for a second and think about that: The president of the United States endorsed a foreign government’s nasty insults of America’s former vice president — and did so while standing next to the leader of a top American ally.

That’s appalling behavior from the president. There’s an unwritten rule that Americans — and especially high-level American politicians — are supposed to leave domestic politics at the water’s edge when they travel abroad. That means you don’t talk badly about your political opponents overseas, but instead show a united front as a representative of the United States.

Not only did Trump violate that very basic principle, he did so gleefully — and sided with a murderous, repressive dictator while he was at it.

Even some of Trump’s allies in Congress, like Rep. Pete King (R-NY), were appalled by Trump’s behavior.

Some experts, however, aren’t too shocked by Trump’s remarks. “This is Trump being Trump, using anything he can to strike his political enemies,” Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, told me.

Still, it shows that Trump has a penchant for siding with dictators when it most suits him — even at the expense of Americans and US allies.

[Vox]

Trump Implies He Trusts North Korea’s Kim More Than His Own People

President Donald Trump seemed to contradict his national security adviser Saturday, claiming he was unbothered by North Korea’s recent missile tests essentially because he trusts dictator Kim Jong Un. In a tweet while he was in Japan, Trump also espoused a view that is at odds with his host country. “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.”

Japan had said that North Korea’s recent test of short range missiles amounted to a violation of United Nations resolutions. And Trump’s own national security adviser John Bolton agreed with that assessment, telling reporters on Saturday there was “no doubt” that the missile test violated Security Council resolutions.

Vipin Narang, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is an expert on nuclear proliferation and North Korea, said that Trump’s message was “disturbing” for one key reason. “There is a lot that is really disturbing here, but the most important bit is ‘Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me’,” Narang wrote. “Kim never promised to unilaterally disarm, and the problem is Trump continues to believe he did. THAT is why this is so dangerous.”

[Slate]

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