Addressing thousands at St. Peter’s Square in Italy’s Vatican City, Francis said he “salute[d]” Trump and Kim for taking the step to meet. The Catholic leader said he hoped the “significant gesture” would be a stepping stone to the resolution of conflicts in the Korean peninsula and worldwide.
“In the last few hours we saw in Korea a good example of the ‘culture of encounter,’” the pope said, referring to one of his central teachings about the need to reach across physical and political boundaries to build friendships with others.
“I salute the protagonists, with a prayer that such a significant gesture will be a further step on the road to peace, not only on that peninsula, but for the good of the entire world,” Francis continued, according to Reuters.
The pope has not always spoken favorably of Trump and his foreign policy actions.
Francis has been particularly scathing of Trump’s hardline immigration stance. In April, he criticized Trump and other “builders of walls,” saying such leaders would “end up becoming prisoners of the walls they build.”
Trump and Kim met for the third time on Sunday after the U.S. president tweeted a last-minute invitation to the North Korean leader proposing a meeting at the DMZ. Trump proposed the encounter as he was preparing to leave the G-20 summit in Japan.
Kim agreed and during their encounter, Trump briefly crossed into the North Korean side of the zone, becoming the first U.S. president to step foot into the hermit kingdom. The two leaders then sat down for a closed-door meeting that lasted almost an hour. Trump later said the two leaders had agreed to restart negotiations on nuclear weapons after earlier talks on the issue had stalled.
“We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive, good deal,” Trump told reporters.
Though the U.S. president celebrated his chat with Kim as “historic” and an “important statement,” foreign policy experts cautioned the meeting may have been nothing more than a glorified “photo op” ― unless it leads to an actual agreement.
“It’s only ‘historic’ if it leads to denuke negotiations, a verifiable agreement and a peace treaty. Otherwise it’s just some nice pics and pageantry,” Victor Cha, a Korea expert from the Bush administration, wrote on Twitter.