SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — President Donald Trump will meet Sunday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea a day after he issued an unprecedented invitation and expressed willingness to cross the border for what would be a history-making photo op.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that Kim accepted Trump’s invitation to meet when the U.S. president visits the heavily fortified site at the Korean border village of Panmunjom.
Moon praised the two leaders for “being so brave” to hold the meeting and said: “I hope President Trump will go down in history as the president who achieves peace on Korean Peninsula.”
Trump said he looked forward to meeting with Kim, but sought to tamp down expectations, predicting it would be “very short.” He added: “Virtually a handshake, but that’s okay. A handshake means a lot.”
Officials spent Sunday morning working out logistical and security details, Trump said during an earlier appearance with Moon.
The invitation, while long rumored in diplomatic circles, still came across as an impulsive display of showmanship by a president bent on obtaining a legacy-defining nuclear deal. North Korea initially responded by calling the offer a “very interesting suggestion.”
Presidential visits to the DMZ are traditionally carefully guarded secrets for security reasons. White House officials couldn’t immediately say whether Kim had agreed to meet with Trump.
“All I did is put out a feeler, if you’d like to meet,” Trump said in Japan. He added, somewhat implausibly: “I just thought of it this morning.”
Before arriving in Seoul, Trump said at a news conference in Japan that he’d “feel very comfortable” crossing the border into North Korea if Kim showed up, saying he’d “have no problem” becoming the first U.S. president to step into North Korea.
His comments came hours after Trump asked for Kim to meet him there. “If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” he tweeted.
It was not immediately clear what the agenda, if any, would be for the potential third meeting between Trump and Kim.
“If he’s there we’ll see each other for two minutes,” Trump predicted.
Such a spectacle would present a valuable propaganda victory for Kim, who has long been denied the recognition they sought on the international stage.
North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, said the meeting, if realized, would serve as “another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations.”
Meeting with Trump at South Korea’s presidential Blue House on Sunday, Moon said when he saw Trump’s invitation to Kim, “I could really feel that the flower of peace was truly blossoming on the Korean peninsula.”
Trump’s summit with Kim in Vietnam earlier this year collapsed without an agreement for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. He became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the leader of the isolated nation last year when they signed an agreement in Singapore to bring the North toward denuclearization.
Substantive talks between the nations have largely broken down since then. The North has balked at Trump’s insistence that it give up its weapons before it sees relief from crushing international sanctions.
Still, Trump has sought to praise Kim, who oversees an authoritarian government, in hopes of keeping the prospects of a deal alive, and the two have traded flowery letters in recent weeks.