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US-North Korea: Trump and Kim Jong-un in symbolic DMZ meeting

Media captionPresident Trump: “Stepping across that line was a great honour”

US President Donald Trump has shared a symbolic handshake with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the heavily fortified zone dividing the two Koreas.

Mr Trump became the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea after meeting Mr Kim at the demilitarised zone (DMZ).

Critics have dismissed it as pure political theatre, but others say it could set the scene for future talks.

Their last summit ended abruptly with no progress on denuclearisation talks.

What happened at the DMZ?

The leaders, in their third face-to-face encounter in just over a year, met at the tense area that has divided the peninsula since the Korean War ended in 1953.

In a meeting apparently arranged after Mr Trump invited Mr Kim on Twitter, they shook hands across the demarcation line before Mr Trump briefly crossed into North Korean territory, a symbolic milestone in the diplomacy between the two countries.

Numerous previous US presidents have visited the 1953 armistice line between the Koreas, largely in a show of US support for the South.

But Mr Trump changed the optics of the visit, eschewing binoculars and a bomber jacket for a business suit. His meeting with Mr Kim, and the footsteps into North Korea made history.

“It’s a great honour. A lot of progress has been made… This has been a particularly great friendship,” Mr Trump said of the North Korean leader. “It’s a great day for the world.”

Smiling, Mr Kim responded: “I believe this is an expression of his willingness to eliminate unfortunate past and into a new future.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in joined the two after their handshake.

Mr Kim then crossed into South Korea and, speaking alongside Mr Trump in a rare statement to the press, said the meeting was a symbol of the “excellent” relationship between him and Mr Trump.

President Trump said it was a “truly historic” moment and that he was “proud to step over the line” between the Koreas.

Can it lead to something?

Many people are looking at these pictures today and not believing their eyes, including myself.

As amazing as this moment is, it is worth pointing out we still have no working level talks between the two countries, there seems to be no desire to look into the details of a denuclearisation deal.

North Korea still has nuclear weapons, is there any way they will give them up?

It is an extraordinary moment and it does show that these two people have personal chemistry, but can that lead to anything else? That will be the real test of today.

Why will this meeting be significant?

With no time for the all-important backroom diplomacy, it was expected to be largely a photo opportunity. However, the dramatic meeting will be seen as a sign of their ongoing commitment to the denuclearisation talks.

Negotiations with North Korea, to try to convince it to abandon its controversial nuclear programme, reached a peak last year when Mr Trump and Mr Kim had a historic meeting in Singapore.

They both committed to the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, but without clarifying what that meant.

Media captionDonald Trump and Kim Jong-un: From enemies to frenemies

It was hoped their second meeting, in Hanoi in February, would make some concrete agreement about North Korea handing over its nuclear programme in exchange for some of the tight sanctions against it being lifted.

But those talks ended with no deal, as they failed to agree on the pace at which sanctions should be eased. Since then the negotiations have stalled, though Mr Kim and Mr Trump have exchanged letters recently.

What is the DMZ?

The DMZ, which runs about 4km (2.5 miles) wide and 250km long, has divided the peninsula since the Korean War ended in 1953.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

South Korean soldier stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ

Though that area, by definition, has no military installations or personnel, beyond it lies one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world.

The Joint Security Area (JSA) located at the Panmunjom village straddles the Military Demarcation Line and is where all negotiations between the two countries are held.

Tourists can also go to the JSA when relations between the two countries – still technically at war – allow it. No US sitting US president has been inside it. Bill Clinton once described it as the “scariest place on Earth”.

US-North Korea: Trump and Kim Jong-un in symbolic DMZ meeting

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