On Monday, the beginning of the long-awaited summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un took place, with the first talks culminating a day after. Trump came out of the meeting with a very pleased and optimistic attitude, yet showed no direct results of the negotiations regarding North Korea’s nuclear program, which was the goal of the meeting.
While it is remarkable that the president was able to sympathize and build a friendship with the leader of a nation that hadn’t previously shown a spirit of cooperation, the specific commitments both countries will have to take moving forward are still not clear. Both leaders signed a document to confirm Kim’s commitment to North Korea’s denuclearization and the security support the U.S. will give it through that process. However, it has been stated that the complete and permanent dismantling of the country’s nuclear program was never confirmed or mentioned.
Trump proudly stated after the talks: “We both want to do something. We both are going to do something. And we have developed a very special bond. People are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy.” At the press conference that followed the talks, the president mentioned that the denuclearization process was at its very early stages, and that Monday’s meeting was targeted more towards solidifying his bond with the Supreme Leader. He then confessed that the meeting exceeded his expectations, also stating during the summit his belief that the relationship between the two countries “is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past.”
Several moments throughout the meeting displayed the feeling and initiative of change between the nations, as Kim and Trump saluted each other in front of several North Korean and U.S. flags, a sight that had previously been deemed as impossible. The Supreme Leader also mentioned the rarity and uniqueness of the situation, stating through a translator: “Today, we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind. The world will see a major change.”
The summit has undergone several changes in its organization. It was first canceled by Trump, after he expressed his feelings about the upcoming meeting feeling “inappropriate” in its context. The cancellation was given to, according to the president, a feeling of “tremendous anger and hostility” from part of North Korea. This decision had been surrounded by ramping tensions between the countries, especially with North Korea showing itself much more skeptical and uncertain about their participation in the summit. This skepticism resulted in harsh words regarding the negotiations, with the country releasing a statement where they said the U.S. had to “meet [North Korea] in a meeting room or encounter us at [a] nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
After being canceled at the end of May, some U.S. diplomatic experts were sent over to North Korea and engaged with the country’s officials to revive the event. Discussions included issues regarding the development of an agenda and the treatment of skepticism surrounding the possibility of agreement over a topic as sensitive as nuclear weapons in such little time and with both leaders seemingly being in opposite sides of the discussion. The meetings took place in Panmunjom, a village in the border between North and South Korea, usually setting for communications between the two countries. It was also reported that another team, led by deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin, went to Singapore and worked on logistics, such as the date of the meetings, the amount of press that would be allowed to cover them and security-related issues. The officials had to go over several matters of coordination in a limited and short amount of time, when it has usually taken months or even years to coordinate meetings of this nature.