President Trump on Saturday casually invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet him at the Korean demilitarized zone Sunday, appearing to offer to reopen talks that have been on hold since February and revealing a plan to visit the highly secured area that the Secret Service had tried to keep secret.
Trump first suggested a meeting in a tweet Saturday morning, writing: “If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”
He confirmed his invitation and travel plans to reporters a short time later, claiming that he “just thought of it this morning.” (Trump actually first floated the idea of meeting Kim at the DMZ last week in an interview.)
“We’ll be at — we may go the DMZ, the border,” Trump said, before momentarily going off on a tangent about the four-mile-wide demilitarized zone that has separated North and South Korea since 1953.
“By the way, when you talk about a border, that’s what they call a border,” Trump said. “Nobody goes to that border, just about nobody. That’s called a real border.”
Trump also revealed plans to visit U.S. troops stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea before returning to the subject of meeting with Kim, a possibility the White House had continued to insist was not part of the president’s schedule.
“So we’ll be there,” Trump said. “I just put out a feeler because I don’t know where he is right now, he may not be in North Korea. But I said if Chairman Kim, if we want to meet, I’ll be at the border. We seem to get along very well.”
He suggested the meeting could be short.
“We’ll see. If he’s there, we’ll see each other for two minutes,” Trump said. “That’s all we can, but that will be fine.”
Although Twitter is banned for citizens in North Korea, the message appeared to get to Kim quickly. Hours after Trump’s seemingly spur-of-the-moment invitation, North Korea’s First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui responded in a statement, calling it “a very interesting suggestion.”
“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, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Trump also told reporters that his diplomacy has led to a detente with North Korea, which has stopped testing long-range missiles but continued with short-range missile tests.
“If I didn’t become president,” he continued, “you’d be having a war right now with North Korea.”
Later, at a press conference that lasted more than an hour, Trump said he didn’t know if Kim would show up but that a formal invitation was being delivered and that he would indeed be willing to step across the border and into North Korea.
“I would feel very comfortable doing that,” Trump said. “I would have no problem.”
Trump’s initial comments came during a breakfast meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which he called “a great honor,” and ahead of his sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the final morning of the two-day Group of 20 conference here.
Trump, who said that talks with China about trade have progressed, did not respond to shouted questions about whether he intended to bring up the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by Saudi government officials close to the crown prince.
“Thank you very much, everybody,” he said, signaling the news media to leave the room.
Later at the press conference before departing for Seoul, Trump received several questions about his meeting with bin Salman and whether he raised the issue of Khashoggi’s death.
Asked if he thought it was acceptable to murder a journalist, Trump said he did not. But he also emphasized that Saudi Arabia has prosecuted 13 people who are being held responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. Pressed further, Trump said he and bin Salman did discuss the matter and that the crown prince is “very angry about it.”
Initially, Trump also claimed that “nobody has pointed the finger at the future king of Saudi Arabia.” Informed that the United Nations and his own intelligence officials, in fact, have determined that bin Salman was involved in the gruesome murder and dismemberment of the journalist, Trump said he didn’t want to discuss the intelligence.
“We can declassify,” he said. “The truth is I just don’t want to talk about the intelligence.”
He took a wide range of questions during the press conference, stating his opinion that Kamala Harris “was getting too much credit” for her performance in Thursday’s Democratic debate and repeatedly touting his strong relationships with most world leaders, regardless of whether or not they hold democratic values.
“They’re all fine as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Some are stronger than others. Some are tougher than others.”
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