Trump due at DMZ and hopeful of Kim meeting

Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in meet in South KoreaImage copyright

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US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have met for talks

President Trump says he is still hoping to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un when he visits the fortified strip dividing the two Koreas shortly.

He told a banquet in South Korea he was still “trying to work out” a meeting at the demilitarised zone (DMZ).

He invited Mr Kim in an apparently spontaneous tweet from the G20 summit in Japan on Saturday.

North Korea described the offer as interesting, but has not said whether Mr Kim will take it up.

Mr Trump is in South Korea to discuss the flagging North Korea denuclearisation talks and trade.

He will visit the DMZ with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in.

A meeting with Mr Kim would be a symbolic encounter, typifying Mr Trump’s unusual style of diplomacy.

So far, two summits – in Singapore and Vietnam – have failed to bridge differences over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

A third meeting between the pair at the DMZ, commentators say, would have long-lasting resonance but minimal impact on the progress of denuclearisation talks.

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Media captionDonald Trump and Kim Jong-un: From enemies to frenemies

Mr Trump has not confirmed Mr Kim will be there, only saying he expects a “really interesting” visit to the DMZ.

North Korea described the offer as a “very interesting suggestion”, but stressed it had not received an official request.

Mr Trump is expected to arrive at the DMZ at 2.30pm local time (06.30 GMT), according to the White House.

What did Mr Trump say?

At a banquet with South Korean business leaders, Mr Trump reiterated his wish to “say hello” to Mr Kim at the DMZ, saying both sides were “trying to work it out” but it was “not so easy”.

“I understand that they want to meet,” he said. “It will be very short but that’s OK. A handshake means a lot,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday, he said he would have “no problem” setting foot in North Korean territory to meet Mr Kim.

He would be the first US president to cross the DMZ, a band 2.5 miles (4 km) wide and 150 miles (241 km) long which has divided the peninsula since the Korean War ended in 1953.

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South Korean soldier stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ

None of his predecessors managed it, including Bill Clinton, who once described the DMZ as the “scariest place on Earth”.

It was Mr Trump’s seemingly off-the-cuff tweet that built anticipation of a possible third face-to-face encounter between the pair.

“If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!,” Mr Trump tweeted from Osaka.

How are North Korea-US relations?

They have soured somewhat since Mr Trump and Mr Kim met in Hanoi, Vietnam. The summit – their second after Singapore in June 2018 – ended abruptly without agreement on North Korea’s progress towards denuclearisation.

Mr Trump has repeatedly insisted that North Korea must dismantle its nuclear arsenal before economic sanctions can be lifted.

Since the Hanoi summit, North Korea has risked incurring the wrath of the Trump administration by testing several short-range missiles.

But Mr Trump, who once threatened North Korea with “fire and fury”, has struck a more conciliatory tone recently, describing Mr Kim as a “very smart guy” and that he expected “a lot of good things” to come out of North Korea.

Last week, Mr Trump – who this month said North Korea under Mr Kim’s leadership had “tremendous potential” – sent the North Korean leader a personal letter whose content Mr Kim praised as “excellent”.

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