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(ROUNDUP) In DMZ, Trump, Kim agree to resume nuclear talks

22:13 June 30, 2019

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, June 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas and agreed to resume working-level nuclear talks "within a few weeks."

Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the communist state when he briefly crossed the inter-Korean border together with Kim.

"We've agreed to have teams set up," Trump said following one-on-one meeting with Kim at the truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ.

"What is going to happen is over the next two or three weeks, the teams are gonna start working to see whether or not they can do something," he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Freedom House located on the southern side of Panmunjom on June 30, 2019. (Yonhap)

Stephen Biegun, special representative for North Korea, will lead the U.S. team, he said, adding that Pyongyang may replace some of its negotiators.

"(They will) start a process and we'll see what happens," Trump told reporters, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in standing next to him.

He reiterated, however, that speed does not matter as he's in no rush for a deal, with sanctions on Pyongyang still in place.

On what Trump called a "historic, legendary day," he also extended an informal invitation for Kim to come to the White House.

"I would invite him right now, to the White House," he said in response to a reporter's question about whether he has such an intention.

Trump later said it could happen "anytime he wants to do it," adding, "I think we want to take this down to the next step -- let's see what happens."

Beginning their third face-to-face meeting, Kim and Trump shook hands smiling broadly and chatted on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). They then briefly crossed the line into the North together before returning to the South.

Panmunjom is a token of the decades of division on the peninsula that began with the 1950-53 Korean War, in which their two countries fought fierce battles against each other.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L, front) steps into the North Korean side of Panmunjom on June 30, 2019. (Yonhap)

He became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the communist state.

Trump said he was "proud to step over that line." He said flamboyantly, "It's a great honor. ... It's a great day for the world."

Kim hailed it as an "expression of (Trump's) willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future."

He told Trump that he "never expected" to meet him "at this place."

It was their first meeting since their Hanoi summit in late February fell part due to differences over the definition of substantive denuclearization in return for sanctions relief.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) watches the leaders of the two Koreas -- Moon Jae-in (L) and Kim Jong-un -- hugging each other in Panmunjom on June 30, 2019. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) in Panmunjom on June 30, 2019. (Yonhap)

After they crossed back into the South, they were joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The three leaders then walked into the Freedom House, a building on the southern side. But Moon stayed away from the Kim-Trump talks.

The three-way gathering of the U.S. and Korean leaders was unprecedented.

With the DMZ event, Moon told reporters, the Korea peace process has overcome a "big bump" on the path toward denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace.

Cheong Wa Dae said the overall DMZ event opened a new chapter of history.

"It is expected that the temporarily stalled North Korea-U.S. negotiations will regain momentum," Yoon Do-han, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public communication, said in a statement.

On the Trump-Kim meeting, which lasted more than 50 minutes, a Cheong Wa Dae official said later that it can be characterized as either a "de-facto third summit" or North Korea-U.S. talks and that it is up to each news outlet how to describe it.

Ahead of their Panmunjom tour, Moon and Trump traveled in separate choppers to Observation Post Ouellette on the inter-Korean border.

U.S. President Donald Trump (3rd from R) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C) peer into North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette at the DMZ on June 30, 2019. (Yonhap)

Overlooking North Korea, they received a briefing from frontline troops on the North's border artillery and on war remains excavation work.

They then met with South Korean and U.S. service members at a dining facility at Camp Bonifas.

Speaking to them, Moon said Panmunjom, also known as the Joint Security Area (JSA), is being transformed from a symbol of confrontation to one of peace.

"You are witnessing a great change of history at that very scene. It's President Trump who is playing a key role in the great shift," Moon added.

Wearing a suit -- in contrast to previous U.S. presidents, who wore bomber jackets when they visited -- Trump looked at the northern side across the DMZ without binoculars. He said he had long planned the DMZ trip.

Earlier in the day, Moon and Trump had a bilateral summit at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.

Moon said in a joint press conference that he and Trump "have reaffirmed that (the U.S. and South Korea) have the same position on denuclearization and share the same goal."

He added the Seoul-Washington alliance has been firmly established as a "comprehensive, strategic" alliance aimed at bolstering cooperation not just on security but also on economic, regional and global issues.

Trump also stressed, "I think I can say with great confidence that the relationship with South Korea has never been stronger or better." He cited "good chemistry between the leaders."

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers speech to service members at Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province on June 30, 2019. (Yonhap)

Trump addressed U.S. soldiers at a U.S. air base in Osan, just south of Seoul, before leaving South Korea in the evening.

Trump tweeted, "Leaving South Korea after a wonderful meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un. Stood on the soil of North Korea, an important statement for all, and a great honor!"


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