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US-North Korea: Trump and Kim Jong-un to meet at DMZ

Media captionUS-North Korea: Trump confirms historic DMZ meeting with Kim

US President Donald Trump has arrived in the heavily fortified zone dividing the two Koreas for a brief greeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The unprecedented meeting at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) comes after Mr Trump tweeted what he said was a spontaneous invitation to Mr Kim.

South Korea’s president said they would have a “handshake for peace”.

The North has not yet commented. The expected meeting raises hopes for a revival of stalled nuclear talks.

It will be the third meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in just over a year, and their first since a summit in Vietnam broke down in February.

Reacting to Mr Trump’s offer on Saturday, North Korea said it was “very interesting”.

In a press conference in Seoul earlier, Mr Trump said he and Mr Kim had “developed a very good relationship” and he was looking forward to meeting him.

“It’s going to be very short, virtually a handshake. But that’s OK. A handshake means a lot.”

Apparently confirming that the invitation was not long planned, he said he arrived in South Korea and thought: “Hey, I’m here let’s see whether I can say hello.”

Speaking alongside Mr Trump, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the leaders would meet in Panmunjom, the so-called truce village inside the DMZ, where negotiations between South and North Korea have often taken place.

No sitting US president has ever been inside the DMZ, the thin strip of land which divides North and South Korea.

Mr Moon said the timing of a third full summit “depends on what change today’s meeting and dialogue could generate”, adding that “peace takes more courage compared to tensions”.

Why will this meeting be significant?

With no time for the all-important backroom diplomacy, it is expected to be largely a photo opportunity. However, it 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 in recent weeks.

So a handshake at the border would be largely symbolic, signalling their ongoing commitment to the process, but having a minimal impact on the progress of talks.

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.

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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 to meet at DMZ

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