By Hans Izaak Kriek*
In a made-for-television event with more symbolism than substance, President Donald Trump met Sunday Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and became the first U.S. president to step onto North Korean territory.
"Stepping across that line was a great honor," Trump told Kim Jong Un after walking him on the North Korean side of the border, claiming "a lot of progress has been made" in the wake of their two past summits in Singapore and Vietnam.
After meeting with North Korean president for nearly an hour, Trump said both sides will set up teams" to revive negotiations to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, a goal that has proved elusive for years.Trump called it a ‘legendary’ day that could lead to progress.
Kim Jong Un told Trump that "I did not expect to see you at this place," before reminding him he would be the first U.S. president to cross into North Korea. Kim could be seen clapping when Trump actually stepped onto North Korean territory.
Later, while being questioned by American reporters, Kim lauded Trump for a "determined and courageous visit" designed to "bring an end to the unpleasant past."
While Trump had said the meeting would be little more than a quick handshake, he and Kim wound up speaking for close to an hour in a nearby building. They re-emerged for another stroll along the border, followed by armies of camera-wielding journalists and security personnel.
Trump and Kim Jong Un shook hands and walked the border area amid an extraordinary and chaotic scene, as photographers, reporters, and security guards jostled for position and yelled at one another to get out of the way. At one point, Kim could be seen chuckling over the pandemonium. Trump grinned frequently during his chats with the North Korean leader.
"We met and we liked each other from Day One," Trump had said of Kim Jong Un.
While applauding Trump’s goals, foreign policy analysts said the border meeting and the theatrics won’t mean much unless he and Kim are able to make real progress on a deal to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. That has not been possible after the first two Trump-Kim summits.
After the meeting, Trump told reporters that he would invite Kim Jong Un to visit the United States ‘at the right time’, and that could happen if things work out.Critics said Kim has made no progress toward ending his nuclear weapons programs, even after two summit meetings with Trump, and should not be rewarded with the prestige of another presidential meeting.
Trump dismissed the criticism, saying that "we’re doing well" with North Korea, and that tensions have been greatly reduced since he started meeting with Kim.
The two leaders have held summits in Singapore and Vietnam but have been unable to strike a deal in which North Korea junks its nuclear weapons facilities in exchange for reductions of economic sanctions.I think the time of the meeting does not seem coincidental. It’s a convenient time for Trump to do that. He wants to keep the lead in North Korea, while China is also trying to be present there. China and America are in the middle of a trade war, those files and interests are intertwined.
Restart negotiations between Xi and Trump
Trump arrived in Seoul after attending the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. While there, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to re-start talks on a new trade agreement that could end the economically damaging trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
President Donald Trump said he will hold off on imposing additional tariffs on China after a meeting with President Xi Jinping that resulted in the stalled trade negotiations getting ‘right back on trac.
Speaking Saturday at a wide-ranging news conference at the conclusion of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Trump said he will also allow American companies to sell to Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant whose software U.S. intelligence has warned could threaten U.S. national security.
As far as resolving the overall issue of Huawei, which the U.S. government wants to bar from the country’s planned 5G cellular telephone networks, “we agreed to leave that to the end” of trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing.
The Chinese, however, are not getting relief from sanctions already imposed by the Trump administration. “At least for the time being we won’t be lifting tariffs on China,” the U.S. president told the news conference. “They would like to make a deal,” Trump said in assessing the Chinese following what he described as “a great meeting” with Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit.
In remarks at the start of the meeting, Xi said “China and the United States both benefit from cooperation and lose in a confrontation. Cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation.”
Xi added that he wanted to exchange views with Trump “on the fundamental issues concerning the growth of China-U.S. relations so as to set the direction of our relationship.”
Trump, noting his ‘excellent relationship’ with Xi, said: “we want to do something that will even it up with respect to trade. I think it’s something that’s very easy to do.” The U.S. president noted that the two countries had been very close to achieving a historic trade agreement and then “something happened where it slipped a little bit.”
Trump added that regarding a fair trade deal, “we’re totally open to it. I know you’re totally open to it,” explaining that negotiations for both countries have been working hard to achieve that. “I think we can go on to do something that truly will be monumental and great for both countries. And that’s what I look forward to doing.”
Top U.S. officials, in the days leading up to the meeting, had been skeptical about any immediate breakthrough and played down expectations of that.
Trump had threatened another $325 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, which would cover just about everything China exports to the United States that is not already covered by the current 25% tariff on $250 billion in Chinese imports. China has slapped its own tariffs on U.S. products, including those produced by already financially strapped American farmers.
The latest round of talks broke down in May, when Washington accused Beijing of going back on its pledge to change Chinese laws to enact economic reforms.
I think neither the United States nor China have indicated they will back down from their previous positions that led to the current stalemate.
*International political commentator for European Business Review and editor-in-chief of Kriek Media