At the historic one-on-one summit in Singapore, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled and shook hands before pledging to work toward the “denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula.
“Chairman Kim has before him an opportunity like no other to be remembered as the leader who ushered in a glorious new era of prosperity for his people,” Trump said at a news conference in Singapore following more than four hours of talks with Kim.
“He reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the US leader said, adding that Kim also agreed to destroy a missile site in North Korea. “We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.”
Earlier in the day, the two leaders met at the Capella Hotel in Singapore’s Sentosa island, where they signed a pact committing to work towards the development of fresh relations and promote “peace, prosperity and security” in the region.
“President Trump committed to providing security guarantees to North Korea and Chairman Kim reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the agreement said.
Trump said he would push for North Korea to denuclearize as “fast as it can mechanically” but added it could take a long time. He said that sanctions on North Korea would be removed “when we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor”.
The US leader said the summit marked a “great moment in the history of the world” and stressed that denuclearization would be verifiable by international and US experts. Trump and Kim agreed to have follow-on negotiations led by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean official.
Ending South Korea War Games
Trump announced that the US would stop military exercises with its security ally South Korea, in order to facilitate denuclearisation with North Korea.
“The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them. Under the circumstances, that we’re negotiating … I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games,” Trump told a news conference in Singapore after his meeting with Kim Jong.
The US and South Korea are security allies, with around 30,000 troops from Washington stationed in the South to defend it from its neighbour, which invaded in 1950.
The joint military exercises held by them every year infuriate Pyongyang, which has long demanded an end to the drills and often responds with nuclear tests, which further intensify the tensions.
The announcement came as a surprise to the South which said that it needed “to find out the precise meaning or intentions” of Trump’s statement. It added that it was willing to “explore various measures to help the talks move forward more smoothly”.
The move worries South Korea as it has already appealed to the US president not to put their country’s security at risk.
Prisoners of War
Trump’s statement made no mention of the sanctions on North Korea, nor did it talk about an expected peace treaty that would formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
However, the two sides agreed to commit to recovering the remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Korean War, including an immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Daniel Russel, formerly the State Department’s top Asia diplomat under the Obama administration, said the absence of any reference to the North’s ballistic missiles was “glaring.”
“Trading our defence of South Korea for a promise is a lopsided deal that past presidents could have made but passed on,” he said.
Trump said China, North Korea’s main ally, would welcome the progress he and Kim had made.
“Making a deal is great thing for the world. It’s also a great thing for China,” he said.
The Special Bond
Trump said he had formed a “very special bond” with Kim and relations with North Korea would be very different in future. He called Kim “very smart” and a “very worthy, very hard negotiator”.
Just a few months ago, Kim was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and hundreds of officials suspected of disloyalty. Tens of thousands of North Koreans are imprisoned in labour camps.
Trump said he raised the issue of human rights with Kim, and he believed the North Korean leader wanted to “do the right thing”.
Trump also said U.S. college student Otto Warmbier did not die in vain, as his death helped initiate the process that led to the summit. Warmbier died last year, days after he returned to the United States in a coma after being released from North Korean custody.
During a post-lunch stroll through the gardens of the hotel where the summit was held, Trump said the meeting had gone “better than anybody could have expected”.
Kim stood silently alongside, but he had earlier described the summit as a “a good prelude to peace”.
India Welcomes Singapore Summit, China Says Sanctions Could be Eased
India welcomed the Singapore meeting and described it as a “positive development”.
“We hope that the outcomes of the US-DPRK Summit will be implemented, thus paving the way for lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,” said the External Affairs Ministry.
China said that sanctions against Pyongyang could be eased if it complies with the UN resolution.
“China has consistently held that sanctions are not the goal in themselves. The Security Council’s actions should support and conform to the efforts of current diplomatic talks towards denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, and promote a political solution for the peninsula.”
The dollar however jumped to a 3-week top and Asian shares rose on news of the agreement.
(With Inputs from IANS and Reuters)