President Donald Trump invited North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un to meet him at the demilitarised zone this weekend “just to shake his hand and say hello”.
“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon),” Trump wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday morning from Osaka, Japan, where he’s attending the Group of 20 summit. “While 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(?)!”
If the meeting happens, it will be the third between the two leaders since they began to ease long-standing tensions that risked sparking a military conflict between the US and North Korea.
Their previous meeting in Vietnam earlier this year ended without a deal, and talks have stalled since.
North Korea’s state media reported a week ago that Kim had received a letter from Trump with “excellent content,” without providing more details.
South Korea will work hard to get Kim to show up and meet Trump “but there’s nothing really to be gained from it except for a photo op,” said said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“There’s no real progress on denuclearization,” Cha said. “The more meetings you do like this without any progress, the more you are legitimising him as a leader and an acceptable nuclear weapons state.”
Trump’s trip to South Korea on Saturday and Sunday risks highlighting the distance between him and Kim, more than year after their historic first meeting in Singapore.
Despite the warm words, they’re still far apart on any plan to reduce or eliminate Kim’s nuclear arsenal.
The two leaders remain locked in a pattern of personal praise and diplomatic standoff, unable or unwilling to start negotiating the details. Even before Trump arrived in the region Thursday, North Korea’s foreign ministry complained in a statement that “the US repeatedly talks about resumption of dialogue like a parrot without considering any realistic proposal.”
After a year of talks, the U.S. hasn’t got North Korea to agree to a definition of “denuclearization,” let alone a timeline to carry it out. Kim’s still buried by sanctions, unable to develop the beachfront resorts where Trump once mused about building “the best hotels in the world.”
Although a return to nuclear tests and threats of “fire and fury” seem unlikely for now, North Korea has reaffirmed Kim’s warning that he would only wait until the end of the year for the U.S. to make a better offer. In May, he sent Trump a pointed message about the potential for renewed tensions, test-launching ballistic missiles for the first time since November 2017.