The U.S. president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in person for the first time today to discuss denuclearization and a return to peaceful relations on the Korean peninsula.
The summit marks the first ever time that the acting leaders of both countries have met in person.
The leaders reportedly met in private, accompanied only by their interpreters, for roughly two hours.
At the meeting’s close, both the U.S. president and Kim Jong-un signed a joint statement outlining the North Korean’s pledge to return the remains of South Korean and U.S. soldiers who were killed in the Korean War, as well as the commitment between both countries to work towards complete denuclearization on the peninsula.
For the millions of South Korean families and thousands of U.S. families who never received closure, the announcement of the effort to return familial remains is a huge victory.
A more surprising result of the summit was the U.S. president’s decision to suspend the joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, which he referred to as “provocative.”
The president also referred to the exercises as “war games,” a linguistic choice that many have applauded since it recognizes the rather unnecessary nature of the exercises, which, as the president also pointed out, are incredibly expensive.
However, as enthusiastic as peace advocates and North Koreans may be about the decision to cancel the war games, U.S. allies South Korea and Japan expressed concern at the decision, which the president apparently did not communicate to our allies in advance.
“When the President of the United States announces unilaterally to the leader of North Korea that we are going to stop our military exercises with our allies, Japan and Korea, and does not first tell those allies … and then goes on to say that someday he’d like to get our troops out of Asia, that’s an astonishing development.” — Michael J. Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
So where do we stand now?
The most significant aspect of this meeting is really just the fact that the two leaders met in person.
Never before have the sitting leaders of both countries met face-to-face to talk about these issues. In the past, lower level advisors from both parties would meet for weeks or months at a time to hammer out the fine details before putting the heads of state together in the same room.
In a similar vein, it’s significant that both leaders signed off on a joint agreement.
Many meetings like this have taken place under past administrations, and even similar agreements have been reached, but never before were those agreements signed off on by both heads of state.
Hopefully that added degree of circumstance will strengthen this agreement in ways which the previous agreements lacked.
Iron Triangle Press will continue to follow this story as it develops.