SINGAPORE (AP) — President Donald Trump wrapped up his five-hour nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with surprisingly warm words and hope for “a bright new future” for Kim’s isolated and impoverished nation. Yet he immediately faced pointed questions at home about whether he got little and gave away much in his push to make a deal with the young autocrat — including an agreement to halt U.S. military exercises with South Korea.
Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Trump and Kim signed a joint statement Tuesday agreeing to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, although the timeline and tactics were left unclear. Trump later promised to end “war games,” with ally South Korea, a concession to Kim that appeared to catch the Pentagon and Seoul government off guard and sowed confusion among Trump’s Republican supporters in Washington.
While progress on the nuclear question was murky, the leaders spent the public portions of their five hours together expressing optimism and making a show of their new relationship. Trump declared he and Kim had developed “a very special bond.” He gave Kim a glimpse of the presidential limousine. Kim, for his part, said the leaders had “decided to leave the past behind” and promised, “The world will see a major change.”
Soon, Kim was on a plane headed home, while a clearly ebullient Trump held forth for more than an hour before the press on what he styled as a historic achievement to avert the prospect of nuclear war. Before leaving himself, Trump tossed out pronouncements on U.S. alliances, human rights and the nature of the accord that he and Kim had signed.
The details of how and when the North would denuclearize appear yet to be determined, as are the nature of the unspecified “protections” Trump is pledging to Kim and his government.
As Trump acknowledged that denuclearization would not be accomplished overnight, the North suggested Wednesday that Trump had moved away from his demand for complete denuclearization before U.S. sanctions on the long-isolated country are removed.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday the two leaders “shared recognition to the effect that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The White House did not immediately respond to the North Korean characterization of the deal.
The Singapore accord largely amounts to an agreement to continue discussions, echoing previous public statements and commitments. It does not, for instance, include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the U.S. and North Korea.
Nor does it detail plans for North Korea to demolish a missile engine testing site, a concession Trump said he’d won, or Trump’s promise to end military exercises in the South while negotiations between the U.S. and the North continue. Trump cast that decision as a cost-saving measure, but also called the exercises “inappropriate” while talks continue. North Korea has long objected to the drills as a security threat.
North Korea is believed to possess more than 50 nuclear warheads, with its atomic program spread across more than 100 sites constructed over decades to evade international inspections. Trump insisted that strong verification of denuclearization would be included in a final agreement, saying it was a detail his team would begin sorting out with the North Koreans next week.
The agreement’s language on North Korea’s nuclear program was similar to what the leaders of North and South Korea came up with at their own summit in April. Trump and Kim referred back to the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, which contained a weak commitment to denuclearization but no specifics on how to achieve it.
But Tuesday’s meeting was as much about theatrics as the details of a deal.
The U.S. president brushed off questions about his public embrace of the autocrat whose people have been oppressed for decades. He did say that Otto Warmbier, an American who died last year just days after his release from imprisonment in North Korea, “did not die in vain” because his death helped bring about the nuclear talks.
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the document that he and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un just signed at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday in Singapore. The most tangible outcome of the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seems to be a commitment to recover the remains of U.S. military personnel missing in action and presumed dead from the Korean War. In a joint statement signed by the leaders Tuesday, the countries committed to the recovery of the remains and the immediate repatriation of those already identified.