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'It's a great day for the world': Trump invites Kim to US after symbolic 'handshake of peace'

Trump stepped into North Korean territory, becoming the first time a sitting US president has ever set foot in the former enemy country.

Updated Jun 30th 2019, 11:30 AM

Trump US North Korea President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the border village of Panmunjom in the DMZ. Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump stepped onto North Korean soil as he met Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula, in a symbolic diplomatic event and a first for any sitting US president. 

After shaking hands with Kim over the line that marks where their two countries and their allies fought each other to a standstill in the 1950-53 Korean War, Trump walked for several steps into North Korean territory, before another handshake.

The two men then walked into Seoul’s territory together – pausing on the line for photographers – where they were joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Trump US North Korea Source: Susan Walsh

Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Trump also said he had invited the young leader to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.

“It’s a great day for the world and it’s an honor for me to be here,” Trump said. “A lot of great things are happening.”

As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us.”

Kim said that his “wonderful” relationship with Trump would enable the two longtime enemies to get over obstructions, with their nuclear talks at a stalemate.

“I am convinced our relationship will enable us to overcome barriers standing in the way,” said Kim, adding as the two leaders were able to hold talks in the DMZ “just overnight” due to their close ties.

Trump US North Korea Source: Susan Walsh

The impromptu meeting in the DMZ, suggested only a day earlier by Trump on Twitter, comes with negotiations over the North’s nuclear programme in stalemate since their last summit in Vietnam in February.

Earlier today, Trump toured DMZ outposts overlooking North Korean territory accompanied by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with a US military officer pointing out the sights.

Trump US North Korea President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the DMZ. Source: Susan Walsh

This is the leaders’ third face-to-face meeting after a historic initial summit in Singapore and a second in Hanoi that collapsed without an agreement.

“There was great conflict here prior to our meeting in Singapore,” Trump said earlier at the observation post.

“After our first summit, all of the danger went away… It’s all working out, it always works out,” he concluded.

Trump US North Korea Source: Susan Walsh

“We’re going to the DMZ border and I’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim,” Trump told reporters in Seoul. “I look forward to it very much.”

Contact between the two sides has since been minimal – with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position – but the two leaders have exchanged a series of letters.

Trump said that he and Kim would “just shake hands quickly and say hello because we haven’t seen each other since Vietnam”.

The significance of the meeting in the no-man’s-land often referred to as the world’s last Cold War frontier was “obvious”, said Stimson Centre Asia analyst David Kim.

Trump US North Korea President Donald Trump talks to troops at the Korean DMZ at Camp Bonifas in South Korea. Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

“It’s historic for Trump to be the first US President enter North Korea soil, historic for Moon to meet, albeit briefly, with both leaders.”

The meeting had the “potential to kick-start stalled negotiations”, he told AFP, but added that working-level discussions would be crucial. 

What we need is substance, not theatrics.

Trump left South Korea shortly afterwards, departing on Air Force One just before 7pm local time (or before 11am Irish time) en route to Washington.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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