Trump Invites Kim Jong Un to Meet Him at the DMZ This Weekend

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    (Bloomberg) — U.S. President Donald Trump siphoned away attention from the cavalcade of Democrats vying to replace him with an audacious invitation for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to shake hands at the Demilitarized Zone.The offer — naturally made over Twitter while the president attended the Group of 20 summit in Japan — was an act of showmanship fraught with risk for U.S. efforts to dismantle Kim’s nuclear arsenal. Despite two historic photo-ops with the North Korean leader over the past year, denuclearization talks have gone nowhere.“I understand they want to meet,” Trump said of the North Koreans at an event with South Korean business leaders on Sunday. But he didn’t indicate whether Kim would show up.“I’d love to say hello,” he said. “Let’s see what happens. They’re trying to work it out. Not so easy.”Trump will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday and then travel to the DMZ. His official schedule doesn’t list a meeting with Kim and doesn’t allow much time for it.Trump’s invitation appeared to catch some of his most senior advisers off-guard, although many have long moved past being surprised by impromptu Twitter announcements that trip-up intricate plans. North Korea also seemed unprepared, with top diplomat Choe Son Hui saying it was “a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard.”The meeting would be heavy with symbolism for two countries locked in hostility since the Korean War started almost 70 years ago. If Trump stepped into North Korea, as Moon did during a similar rendezvous with Kim last year, he would become the first sitting U.S. president do so.Asked about the possibility at a news conference on Saturday, Trump responded: “Sure I would.” His daughter, Ivanka Trump, said in an interview on Sunday that she would “absolutely” accompany him, calling the prospect of her father entering the country “a very meaningful moment.”Far ApartThe announcement swung attention back to Trump and away from the more than 20 Democratic presidential contenders. They held their first round of debates last week as they compete for the chance to oust the president, drawing prime-time television coverage while Trump met with world leaders out of sight of most Americans.But face-to-face meetings with Kim haven’t prompted the North Korean leader to move meaningfully toward denuclearization, especially not since Trump walked out of their last summit in February.“Both want to do it,” Trump said of a potential DMZ meeting after a speech to the business leaders. The encounter would be “very short,” he said. “A handshake means a lot.”Despite exchanging warm words through letters and the media, they’re still far apart on any plan to reduce or eliminate Kim’s nuclear arsenal. A Trump visit to the Demilitarized Zone had been widely expected, but a border meeting with Kim had been seen as a near impossibility — not least because U.S. communication channels with North Korea are so tenuous.“Trump never ceases to surprise in terms of diplomatic tactics with Kim,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “South Korea will work hard to get Kim to show up, but there’s nothing really to be gained from it except for a photo op.”The tweet was also a shock because the president himself suggested on June 11 that the time wasn’t ripe for a meeting, and that he wanted to “bring it further down the line” before a third summit. The last time they met in Hanoi, Trump rejected North Korea’s offer to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear enrichment site in exchange for broad sanctions relief.The speedy North Korean response suggested a willingness to make the meeting happen, despite Choe’s request for a more formal invitation.“They replied very quickly,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with NK Pro. “Receiving a formal request from the U.S. president would give Kim Jong Un the grounds at home to meet with Trump.”Despite the possibility of a DMZ meeting, Trump’s trip to South Korea on Saturday and Sunday could also highlight the distance between the parties.Moon, who had his own cross-border handshake with Kim a little more than a year ago and promised a treaty to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War, still hasn’t delivered it. But lately Kim turned cool to South Korea after his last meeting with Trump broke down, dismissing Moon as an “officious mediator.”‘Impasse’“We are at an impasse,” Michael Green, a senior vice president for Asia for CSIS and a former National Security Council official under President George W. Bush, said before Trump’s tweet.“Moon Jae-in would like to agree with President Trump on a lasting peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “I don’t think any of the president’s advisers think that’s a good idea absent some steps towards denuclearization. And frankly, those are going to be pretty tough.”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.The problem stems in part from Trump’s decision to bypass diplomats and meet with Kim directly: He built a one-on-one rapport with the young leader, but can’t hand off to someone else. North Korea has mocked or avoided Trump’s intermediaries whenever there’s no immediate promise of a summit, even demanding Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s removal from talks in April.‘Beautiful Letter’But Trump and Kim have been careful to preserve their relationship. Trump shrugged off a recent North Korean missile test as “some small weapons” and praised the “beautiful letter” the North Korean leader sent this month ahead of the anniversary of their Singapore meeting. North Korean state media published a photo of Kim reading with “satisfaction” similar correspondence from Trump this week.“One would think that this would be an opportunity that the presidents would want to take seriously,” said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ program on U.S.-Korea policy. “It would be best if the message were well crafted and not just spur of the moment.”(Updates with Trump remarks beginning in third paragraph.)\–With assistance from Jon Herskovitz, Jihye Lee, Hannah Dormido and Jennifer Jacobs.To contact the reporters on this story: Nick Wadhams in Osaka, Japan, at nwadhams@bloomberg.net;Margaret Talev in Osaka, Japan, at mtalev@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, ;Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, Alex WayneFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    (Bloomberg) — Donald Trump said he’d cross into North Korea at the country’s border to meet Kim Jong Un this weekend as the U.S. president looks to restart stalled nuclear talks.

    “I will be in South Korea — I let him know,” Trump told reporters in Osaka, Japan, after a tweet Saturday morning in which he invited Kim for a handshake. “We’ll see. If he’s there we’ll see each other for two minutes. That’s all we can, but that will be fine.”

    As he arrived in Seoul a few hours later, Trump told reporters he had heard back from North Korea, but didn’t elaborate. “We’re gonna see. They’re working things out right now,” Trump said at South Korea’s Blue House presidential palace.

    Asked at a news conference in Japan whether he’d step into North Korea at the border to meet Kim, Trump said “sure I would,” and that he’d have “no problem” with it. Trump is planning to visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Sunday.

    If Trump crosses the border, he’d be the first American president to ever step foot into the country.

    North Korean foreign ministry official Choe Son Hui said Trump’s invitation was “a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard.”

    “I am of the view that if the DPRK-U.S. summit meetings take place on the division line, as is intended by President Trump, it would serve as another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations,” Choe said, as quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency.

    The United Nations forces and North Korean military are discussing details of a possible Trump-Kim meeting, Channel A reports, citing an unidentified government official.

    If a meeting takes place, it would be the third between the two leaders since they began easing long-standing tensions that risked sparking a military conflict. A summit in Vietnam earlier this year collapsed without a deal, and discussions have gone nowhere since.

    Back home, the snap invitation helped Trump draw attention from Democrats seeking to replace him. Their debates drew two days of prime-time television coverage this week while he was out of the country. But Trump’s tweet took government officials in South Korea and the U.S. by surprise, forcing them to scramble to plan for a meeting that — if it happens — would likely produce little more than publicity for the American president.

    Trump is scheduled to visit Seoul on Saturday for an overnight stay and meetings with President Moon Jae-in. At the G-20, Trump approached Moon ahead of one of the joint sessions and asked “Did you see my tweet?,” Yonhap News reported, citing a Blue House official. When Moon said he had, Trump gave him a thumbs up and said “let’s work together,” the report said.

    North Korea’s state media reported a week ago that Kim had received a letter from Trump with “excellent content,” without providing more details. A Trump-Kim encounter on Sunday hadn’t been confirmed, Ko Min-jung, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s presidential office, said by text message.

    “Certainly we seem to get along very well,” Trump said of Kim during the start of a breakfast meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Group of 20 summit. “For the stupid people that say ‘Oh he gets along,’ no, it’s good to get along. It’s good to get along. Because, frankly, if I didn’t become president you’d be right now in a war with North Korea.”

    Trump said he thought of sending the tweet inviting Kim to meet him at the border on Saturday.

    “I just put out a feeler because I don’t know where he is right now,” the president said. “He may not be in North Korea but I said if Chairman Kim would want to meet I’ll be at the border.”

    Trump’s trip to South Korea on Saturday and Sunday risks highlighting the distance between him and Kim, more than a year after their historic first meeting in Singapore. Despite the warm words, they’re still far apart on any plan to reduce or eliminate the North Korean nuclear arsenal.

    Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said he expects South Korea’s government will now work on getting Kim to show up and meet Trump.

    “But there’s nothing really to be gained from it except for a photo op,” he said in an interview. “There’s no real progress on denuclearization. The more meetings you do like this without any progress, the more you are legitimizing him as a leader and an acceptable nuclear weapons state.”

    ‘Like a Parrot’

    The two leaders remain locked in a pattern of personal praise and diplomatic standoff, unable or unwilling to start negotiating the next steps forward. Even before Trump arrived in the region Thursday, North Korea’s foreign ministry complained in a statement that “the U.S. 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 under U.S. 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.

    The U.S. has insisted North Korea must fully abandon its nuclear arsenal and means of producing weapons before sanctions are relieved. Trump walked out of the Hanoi summit after Kim demanded sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling only the country’s main nuclear facility at Yongbyon, according to the president.

    (Updates with North Korea comment in third paragraph.)

    –With assistance from Derek Wallbank and Nick Wadhams.

    To contact the reporters on this story: Jon Herskovitz in Tokyo at jherskovitz@bloomberg.net;Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net;Jihye Lee in Seoul at jlee2352@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Alex Wayne, John Harney

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