President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un concluded an extraordinary nuclear summit on Tuesday with the US president pledging unspecified “security guarantees” to the North and Kim recommitting to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
They coupled the summit agreement with lofty promises by Trump to handle “a very dangerous problem” and Kim’s prediction for “major change.”
Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Trump and Kim came together for a summit that seemed unthinkable months ago, clasping hands in front of a row of alternating US and North Korean flags, holding a one-on-one meeting, additional talks with advisers and a working lunch.
Both leaders expressed optimism throughout roughly five hours of talks.
Light on specifics, the document signed by the leaders largely amounted to an agreement to continue discussions as it echoed previous public statements and past commitments. It did not include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the US and North Korea.
The pair promised in the document to “build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula and to repatriate remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Korean War.
Language on North Korea’s bombs was similar to what the leaders of North and South Korea came up with at their own summit in April. At the time, the Koreans faced criticism for essentially kicking the issue of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal down the road to Tuesday’s Trump-Kim summit.
Trump and Kim even directly referenced the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, which contained a weak commitment to denuclearization and no specifics on how to achieve it.
The formal document signing followed a series of meetings at a luxury Singapore resort.
After the signing, Trump said he expected to “meet many times” in the future with Kim and, in response to questions, said he “absolutely” would invite Kim to the White House. For his part, Kim hailed the “historic meeting” and said they “decided to leave the past behind.”
In a moment that would never happen in North Korea, reporters began yelling questions to Trump and Kim after they signed the document, including whether they had discussed the case of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who suffered brain damage while in North Korean custody and died in June 2017, days after he was returned home to Ohio.
In the run-up to the meeting, Trump had predicted the two men might strike a nuclear deal or forge a formal end to the Korean War in the course of a single meeting or over several days.
But in the hours before the summit, the White House unexpectedly announced Trump would depart Singapore earlier than expected — Tuesday evening — raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back.
The meeting was the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.