Trump celebrates 'well covered' trip to the DMZ, says it was 'great to call' Kim Jong-un - 19 minutes read

Trump celebrates trip to the DMZ, says it was 'great to call' Kim Jong-un

President Trump suggested Monday that he was happy with coverage of his  unscheduled trip to North Korea for an impromptu meeting with Kim Jong-un, despite the heavy criticism he received for it from Democrats.

Trump said it was 'great to call on' the North Korean leader before their 'very well covered meeting' in the demilitarized zone. 

'Thank you to President Moon of South Korea for hosting the American Delegation and me immediately following the very successful G-20 in Japan. While there, it was great to call on Chairman Kim of North Korea to have our very well covered meeting. Good things can happen for all! ' he said.

Minutes after Trump bragged about his trip, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a top-tier contender to run against him in the general election, denounced the Republican president's foreign policies.

'I have no problem with Trump negotiating with Kim Jong Un. But while he's meeting with Kim, he's pushed us to the brink of war with Iran, and kept us in the horrific Saudi-led war in Yemen,' he said.

Sanders added: 'We can't just have photo opportunities. We need real diplomacy.'

Trump had handicapped the visit as it happened, when he complained that media would give him bad reviews.  

His remarks preceded a round of Sunday show interviews, in which his competitors, fresh off their first debate proceeded to skewer him.

Meanwhile, the president's national security adviser was combating a newspaper article in which sources claimed Trump could allow Kim to  keep his nuclear weapons.

A New York Times report characterized it as a 'nuclear freeze,' and said the position change has been kicked around in the administration for months.

John Bolton said in a Monday morning tweet that there had been no such discussion by anyone working at the White House and demanded consequences for the sources pushing the false claims.

'I read this NYT story with curiosity. Neither the NSC staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to 'settle for a nuclear freeze by NK.' This was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the President. There should be consequences,' he said. 

Trump did suggest he could loosen sanctions in a 45-minute, closed-door meeting with Kim on Sunday in the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

'The sanctions remain but at some point during the negotiations things can happen,' he said.  

He claimed that unspecified progress had been made in their third round of talks, which came after Trump invited Kim over Twitter to meet in neutral territory.

Their second summit fell apart without a new agreement, and North Korea has resumed weapons tests since the conversation in Hanoi.

Trump said Sunday that talks would be restarting, 'We are going to have teams, they are going to meet over the next weeks, they are going to start a process and we will see what happens.

His position throughout the administration has been the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the rogue nation under heavy U.S. and international sanctions for illicit nuclear tests.

Sources told the Times that Trump administration was considering a softening of its positions and the president could allow Kim, with whom he's become pen pals, to keep his nuclear arsenal if he promises not to use it.

Bolton refuted the claim on Twitter. He said neither he nor anyone else at the National Security Council, NSC, had heard it discussed.

It remained unclear on Monday morning whether anyone from NSC was in the room with Trump and Kim when they held their private talk, moments after Trump became the first sitting president to enter North Korea.

Bolton was on other travel at the time. He was not on the president's trip to Seoul and did not participate in his field trip to the DMZ and North Korea. It is not known whether an NSC aide was in the room with the president when he met Kim at all.  

A spokesperson for the NSC did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Trump came out of the meeting raving about his relationship with Kim. He said he could have the North Korean leader who's barred from coming to the U.S. unless an exception is created at the White House in Washington.

The visits are typically reserved for U.S. allies and doled out infrequently to anyone outside of Group of 20 leaders.

As he arrived at the White House residence on Sunday evening, President Trump ducked a question from on the timing of Kim visit.

Kim told Trump earlier in the 30-hour day that started in Asia and ended in the U.S. that he was 'very courageous' for crossing the demarcation line and coming to the North.

'This has a lot of significance because it means that we want to bring an end to the unpleasant past and try to create a new future, so it's a very courageous and determined act,' Kim told Trump through a translator after smiling during their initial handshake greeting. 'You're the first U.S. president to cross this line.'  

Trump invited Kim to meet him for a handshake in a tweet that came amid his trip to Japan for the G20. He claimed he just thought of it, even though reports had been circling for weeks that he'd like to meet Kim, and he told reporters on at least two occasions prior to leaving the White House that he was thinking about it.

The president stuck to his story over the weekend, even as news outlets blasted holes in it. 

'I said you, know what, at the right time, you're going to come over. We're going to go over there,' Trump told reporters after his meeting, held along the 38th parallel, which marks the dividing line set at the time of the 1953 Korean War Armistice.

The two leaders then sat down inside the pastel blue Freedom House at the DMZ for what was to be a brief meeting. 

Incoming White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham became bruised in a 'scuffle' with North Korean security as she tried to get press into position, CNN reported, with a source terming it an 'all out brawl.'

Also there to witness some of the historic moment were first daughter Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, who also were on hand for a series of Trump's meetings with foreign leaders in Osaka.

Asked shortly after the end of the Trump-Kim meeting what it was like to visit North Korea, the president's daughter replied: 'Surreal.'

At that event, like the greeting carried on live TV in Korea and on cable networks internationally, Trump thanked Kim again, once more stressing their personal bond, after Kim first lauded Trump. 

'I want to thank you, chairman,' Trump said. 'You hear the power of that voice. Nobody's heard that voice before. He doesn't do few news conferences, in case you haven't heard,' Trump quipped – in one of his only references to the absolute power Kim wields in a regime known for mass starvation and use of a Stalinist-style gulag system to suppress opposition to his inherited rule.

'When I put out the social media notification, if he didn't show up the press was going to make me look very bad,' Trump said, referencing his unexpected Saturday tweet proposing a meeting. 'So you made us both look good and I appreciate it.'

Kim told the media that with the meeting, 'This means we can feel at ease and meet each other with positive mindsets.'

'President Trump and myself, we have an excellent relationship with each other,' Kim said, stressing the same themes Trump has been hitting for days, as he met leaders ranging from China's Xi Jinping to Russia's Vladimir Putin. 'If it wasn't for that good relationship, it would not have been able to make this meeting possible,' he said.

Kim said he hoped it could be 'the foundation for better things in the future that people will be not expecting.'

'This will be a very mysterious force that allows us to overcome many difficulties that existed in the past,' Kim predicted. 

As he did during a Saturday meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin when he brought up the 'fake news,' Trump joked with a strongman counterpart about the press. 

'When I put out the social media notification, if he didn't show up the press was going to make me look very bad,' Trump said in reference to Kim and his tweet. 'So you made us both look good and I appreciate it,' the president told him. At another point he told the media that had Kim decided not to show, 'You would have hit me hard.'

When it was over, Trump visited Osan Air Base for an outdoor event that had the feel of a Trump political rally – complete with Marine One in the background, and an audio soundtrack including Lee Greenwood's 'Proud to be an American' and the Rolling Stones' 'You Can't Always Get What you Want.' 

Trump even opted to attack Democrats during what became a diplomatic victory speech to the troops, after saying the military equipment was 'sadly depleted' two and a half years ago.

'This is not a political speech, but the Democrats weren't going to give it to you, that I can tell you,' he told the servicemen and women. 'They want open borders and the hell with the military,' Trump claimed, in a comment that could have drawn a Hatch Act complaint if made by a government employee.

Describing his earlier event, Trump said: 'I actually stepped in to North Korea, and they say it's a very historic moment. Many people, I noticed, from Korea were literally in tears,' he said.

Later he called Ivanka and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on stage. 'Mike – Beauty and the beast, Mike,' Trump quipped. 

When he finally left the country – he made several comments about being ready to go back after an intense three-day trip – Trump tweeted: 'Leaving South Korea after a wonderful meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un. Stood on the soil of North Korea, an important statement for all, and a great honor!' 

During the run-up to his Kim meeting, Trump flew from Seoul aboard Marine One to the DMZ. The president visited a border post, accompanied by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He then met with U.S. and South Korean forces stationed at the tense boundary.

A military service-member then proceeded to give him a brief tour, pointing out North Korean territory from a vista at the line of demarcation.

He arrived there after telling reporters about his decision to go to the DMZ to hold the historic handshake meeting with Kim. Then Trump took a shot at the media from the protected guard post.

'I say that for the press. They have no appreciation for what is being done, none,' Trump vented.

Trump made some brief comments, which were carried on live television amid anticipation of what would be his third meeting with Kim. As he did earlier Trump complained about doubters.

'After our first summit all of the danger went away,' he said of the nuclear capable nation. 'When they say there's been no difference, there's been a tremendous difference,' he said. 

'I was just thinking – hey, I'm here, let's see whether or not we can say hello to Kim Jong-un,' Trump told reporters at a press event here in Seoul Sunday afternoon.

'He wanted to do it from the beginning and so did I,' the president said of his North Korean counterpart.

Later, speaking to a group of troops at a border post he visited, Trump said the DMZ visit had been scheduled 'a number of months ago.'

'I said we have to see the DMZ. So this was scheduled for a long time ago and then yesterday I had the idea, maybe I'll call Chairman Kim and see if he wants to say hello. So we didn't give him much notice,' Trump told them.

Commander of U.S. Forces Korea Gen. Robert Abrams then presented Trump with a gift – a monogramed pullover that he said he hoped the president 'might find some utility for you on one of your golf courses.' 

Trump said of Kim during the count-down to the meeting: 'We respect each other – maybe even like each other.

Stoking the drama, Trump told troops he would be meeting Kim within four minutes, although the scheduled meeting blew through that timeline. 

Assessing the potential for another meeting with the hermetic regime, Trump said: 'It's just a step. It might be an important step and it might not. But what we're doing today is a step. And probably it's a step in the right direction.'   

'There is a good feeling so it could be very good,' said Trump.

He said the meeting would be brief, describing it as 'just shake hands and say hello.' 

South Korean leader Moon Jae-in first revealed the news at the start of a joint press event, with only a handful of reporters present.

'The United States and North Korea will be meeting in Panmunjom for the first time in history - the leaders of the United States and North Korea will be standing face to face in Panmunjom the symbol of division,' he said, through a translator during a joint press event with Trump in Seoul and referring to the Joint Security Area between north and south.

 In addition to meeting with Kim, Trump may step inside North Korean territory.

Asked about the prospect on Saturday, he said he would 'feel very comfortable' doing so. He said he would 'have no problem' becoming the first U.S. president to set foot there. 

Trump weaved the news of a meeting with attacks on what he calls the 'fake news,' who he claims have diminished his achievements in tamping down the security threat, which included regular missile launches early in his presidency. 

'It's always insulting,' Trump said. 

He also continued to describe his bond with the North Korean dictator in personal terms. 'We understand each other. I think he understands me and I think I maybe understand him. Sometimes that can lead to very good things,' Trump said.

Former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman, who has made news with his splashy trips to visit North Korea, tweeted about the news.  

'Wishing my friends, and Marshal Kim Jong Un a very good meeting... Much love to you both and keep up the wonderful progress!

The confirmation came after Trump spent the morning teasing the possibility of a meeting with Kim, building the drama with each media appearance throughout the day Sunday. 

'I understand that they want to meet and I'd love to say hello. It's going to be very short but we are in territory that's very close,' Trump said, touting his trip hours before he was to visit the DMZ for the first time.

'We don't have to take long trips. We'll see what happens. They're trying to work it out,' he said, adding it's 'not so easy.'  

As for who might attend, Trump said: 'I don't' know about beyond the two of us but I can say the two of us. But we'll see how that goes.'

During meandering remarks at an event for business leaders, Trump said 'nothing's final' about the meeting, which he floated Saturday morning. 

But he touted his leadership on North Korea, and repeated his claim there would have been World War III if it weren't for his election.

'I'm really the opposite of a war-monger,' Trump said.    

Trump ran through key events of a recent cooling in tensions, including the return of the remains of U.S. Korean War dead, and the return of Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after his return to the U.S. in a coma.

Of the return of 'our hostage,' Trump said it was something 'which we really appreciated from Jong-un, Chairman Kim.

Later, as he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Moon referenced Trump's tweet about meeting Kim. 'I could really feel that the flower of peace was really blossoming on the Korean peninsula,' he said. 

Moon, who has pushed to keep the peace process going, said if Trump and Kim could meet at the line of demarcation it would be a 'historic event.' 

Trump also delivered a message that the peninsula was much safer since he took office, and attacked the 'fake news' for not showing it while also poking at the 'previous administration.'

'North Korea and South Korea are both in much better places right now than they were two and a half years ago when I became president. There was tremendous danger,' Trump said.

'A lot of progress has been made. I watch some of the news. Fake news, it's only fake news. They said well what's been done? Well, it's like the difference between day and night,' Trump said.  

'So when I hear some of these fakers some of these people that aren't honest reporters saying well what has Trump done, you've done a lot,' Trump said.

He added: 'It's changed very, very rapidly. It's very positive. A lot of positive things going on right now.' 

North Korea said on Saturday that Trump's offer was a 'very interesting suggestion,' brightening prospects for a third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.

The president tweeted from the G-20 in Osaka: 'If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!'

It was later revealed he had told the Hill newspaper in an interview Monday he might go and meet come, but the paper held off publication in accordance with White House security concerns. 

Earlier Saturday, Trump invited Kim to shake hands during his planned visit to the DMZ, which has served as a de-facto border between the Koreas since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

'All I did is put out a feeler if you'd like to meet,' Trump said later of the invitation, saying he didn't even know if Kim was in North Korea.

Trump and Kim held a historic first summit in Singapore in June, which concluded with a vague joint statement where Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization. Then they met in Hanoi in February, but talks broke down without any joint agreement as Kim pushed for sanctions relief and the U.S. pushed for denuclearization.

The United States and North Korea are in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American soldiers are deployed in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea. 

Source: Daily Mail

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