Nearly five hours of unprecedented and surreal talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un culminated on Tuesday with fulsome declarations of a new friendship but just vague pledges of nuclear disarmament.
“We both want to do something. We both are going to do something. And we have developed a very special bond. So, people are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy,” Trump said at the conclusion of the landmark summit during a formal ceremony.
The document he and Kim signed said the North Korean leader “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” In exchange, Trump agreed to “provide security guarantees” to North Korea.
But there was no mentioning the previous US aim of “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.” And Kim’s commitments did not appear to go beyond what he already pledged to do in April when he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in along their countries’ border.
Tuesday’s summit was the result of an extraordinary gamble for both Trump and Kim, the rogue kingdom’s despotic leader. Trump hailed the talks as a historic, and personal, achievement.
“We learned a lot about each other and our countries,” Trump said after sitting next to Kim and signing the document, which was bound in a leather binder. “I learned he’s a very talented man.”
He said he would “absolutely” extend an invitation to the White House to Kim, who also heralded a new era.
“Today, we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said through a translator. “The world will see a major change.”
The two men — both intent on making history — greeted each other earlier in the day with extended hands in front of a row of US and North Korean flags, a previously unthinkable sight that reflects a new chapter in the two countries’ acrimonious relationship.
Trump’s threats to politely walk out of the meeting if his expectations were unmet did not materialize. Instead he predicted he could “solve a big problem, a big dilemma” alongside his new partner.
“Working together, we’ll get it taken care of,” Trump said.
The remarks came amid an improbable series of events that few could have anticipated even three months ago. The unlikely images of US and North Korean counterparts engaging in friendly dialogue lent the day an air of unreality. In a detailed menu, the White House said the men were served Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Other developments also fueled that impression. Minutes before the historic handshake, Trump tweeted that his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow had suffered a heart attack. Immediately after the encounter, Dennis Rodman — one of the only Americans to have met Kim — was openly weeping while being interviewed by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
Even Kim seemed to acknowledge the surreality of the day.
“Many people in the world will think of this as a (inaudible) form of fantasy … from a science fiction movie,” his translator was overheard saying as the two leaders walked down a white-columned colonnade.
By Kevin Liptak