US President Donald Trump has shared a symbolic handshake with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the heavily fortified zone dividing the two Koreas.Mr Trump became the first sitting US president to cross into North Korea after meeting Mr Kim at the demilitarised zone (DMZ).Critics have dismissed it as pure political theatre, but others say it could set the scene for future talks.Their last summit ended abruptly with no progress on denuclearisation talks.
Speaking to reporters alongside Mr Kim at the DMZ, President Trump said it was a “truly historic” moment and that he was “proud to step over the line” between the Koreas.Mr Kim, in a rare statement to the press, said the meeting was a symbol of the “excellent” relationship between him and Mr Trump.With no time for the all-important backroom diplomacy, it was expected to be largely a photo opportunity. However, the dramatic meeting will be seen as a sign of their ongoing commitment to the denuclearisation talks.
Negotiations with North Korea, to try to convince it to abandon its controversial nuclear programme, reached a peak last year when Mr Trump and Mr Kim had a historic meeting in Singapore.They both committed to the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, but without clarifying what that meant.
It was hoped their second meeting, in Hanoi in February, would make some concrete agreement about North Korea handing over its nuclear programme in exchange for some of the tight sanctions against it being lifted.
But those talks ended with no deal, as they failed to agree on the pace at which sanctions should be eased. Since then the negotiations have stalled, though Mr Kim and Mr Trump have exchanged letters recently.
The DMZ, which runs about 4km (2.5 miles) wide and 250km long, has divided the peninsula since the Korean War ended in 1953.A South Korean soldier stands guard before the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) during a regular media tour at the border truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone.South Korean soldier stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ
Though that area, by definition, has no military installations or personnel, beyond it lies one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world.The Joint Security Area (JSA) located at the Panmunjom village straddles the Military Demarcation Line and is where all negotiations between the two countries are held.
Tourists can also go to the JSA when relations between the two countries – still technically at war – allow it. No US sitting US president has been inside it. Bill Clinton once described it as the “scariest place on Earth”.