Culminating a historic summit described by Kim Jong Un as something out of a “science fiction movie,” the North Korean dictator sat down at a ceremonial table in Singapore Tuesday and signed a document along with President Trump stating the rogue communist state would work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“People thought this could never take place,” Trump told reporters after the signing. “It’s now taking place. It’s a very great day.”
As Kim prepared to sign the document, he declared the “world will see a major change.”
“I would like to express my gratitude to Trump to make this meeting happen,” he said, according to a translator.
The two leaders began the day with a one-on-one meeting then expanded the participants, with the U.S. team adding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
At the press conference prior to his departure, Trump told reporters he will put on hold joint military exercises, “the war games,” between the United States and South Korea.
The agreement provides “security guarantees” to Pyongyang, he said, without offering more details. On Monday, Pompeo, who made two secret visits to Pyongyang this year, was asked whether any security guarantees might include withdrawing U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, but he declined to answer.
At the news conference Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. sanctions, which along with the threat of military action helped bring Kim to the table after more than two decades of failed diplomacy, “will come off when we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor.”
The agreement includes returning the remains of U.S. prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Korean War.
Asked what surprised him most during their meetings, Trump said Kim has a “great personality” and is “very smart. Good combination.”
He also said Kim is “a very talented man” and “loves his country very much.”
Asked if he would reverse his previous criticism of Kim’s regime, Trump said, “I believe it’s a rough situation over there,” adding, “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there.”
A reporter noted that Trump, in his State of the Union address in January, said Kim’s regime “has more brutally oppressed its people than any regime on Earth,” calling the dictator a “depraved character.”
“Do you still believe that is the case having sat down with Kim Jong Un?”
Trump replied that the two leaders discussed human rights abuses at a “pretty good length.”
At an earlier media availability, he did not reply to a reporter who asked if they discussed Otto Warmbier, the American student sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. Warmbier was sent home in a coma in June 2017 and died soon after.
But at the news conference, Trump said he believed Warmbier’s death brought a new global focus to the regime that ultimately helped bring about the summit, saying, “Otto did not die in vain.”
Newly released satellite images show that North Korea’s prison camp system may be expanding, CNN reported. The United Nations estimates up to 120,000 men, women and children are imprisoned in the gulags, which Pyongyang officially denies exist. Human rights groups, however, have documented their ongoing operation through the satellite imagery and survivor testimony.
The science fiction movie remark came as the two leaders walked on the colonnade of their meeting place, the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island.
Kim, according to a translator, told Trump, “Many people in the world will think of this as a (inaudible) form of fantasy … from a science fiction movie.”
Trump told reporters his meeting with Kim included presentation of a Hollywood-produced, four-minute video that showed Kim as a leader at a crossroads, faced with choosing between the current road of ruin or one leading to an economically bright future, the Daily Mail of London reported.
“I said, ‘Instead of doing that you could have the best hotels in the world right there.’ Think of it from a real estate perspective,” Trump said.
See video of the historic signing:
The agreement signed Tuesday reads in full:
The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
See video of the President Trump’s press conference in Singapore:
‘He wants to get it done’
In an interview with the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity after the summit, Trump said he believes Kim will work toward dismantling his country’s nuclear program “virtually immediately.”
“I just think that we are now we are going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea, and I believe that he’s going back and will start it virtually immediately – and he’s already indicated that and you look at what he’s done,” Trump said.
They discussed the remarkable turnaround from the tensions of last summer when Trump responded to Kim’s missile and nuclear weapon testing with the threat of “fire and fury,” and dubbed the dictator “Little Rocket Man.”
Trump said that “without the rhetoric we wouldn’t have been here.”
“So I think the rhetoric, I hated to do it, sometimes I felt foolish doing it, but we had no choice,” he said.
Trump said he believes Kim has “gone back to get this done.”
“He wants to get it done.”
But he said his administration is “going to have to check him.”
“And we will check him, we’ll check him very strongly. But he has a plan total and complete,” Trump said. “He’s got a total plan. It will get done.”
‘I do trust him, yeah’
“I do trust him, yeah,” Trump said. “Maybe in a year you’ll be interviewing and I’ll say I made a mistake. It’s possible. We’’re dealing at a high level, a lot of things can change a lot of things are possible.”
Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on his previous criticism of North Korea’s human rights abuses, including starving his people, running labor camps and assassinating members of his own family.
“George, I’m given what I’m given,” Trump said. “This is what we have, this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I’ve met him, I’ve spoken with him. I’ve met him. And this is, this has started early and it’s been very intense.
“I think that he really wants to do a great job for North Korea. I think he wants to de-nuke, without that, there’s nothing to discuss. It was on the table from the beginning, and you see a total denuclearization of North Korea – so important.”
Some analysts criticized Trump for treating as an equal an oppressive dictator who only months ago was threatening nuclear war, reported Agence France-Presse.
“The optics of this summit – from the handshakes, to the flag arrangements, to the seating arrangements – are indistinguishable from a meeting between two sovereign states with normal diplomatic relations,” said security commentator Ankit Panda
Panda tweeted that was not necessarily an “unbearable cost” but said the “legitimising effect on North Korea’s regime is undeniable.”
At the Singapore news conference, Trump responded to the criticism, vowing he will “do whatever it takes to make the world a safer place.”
“If I can save millions of lives by coming here, sitting down and establishing a relationship” with the leader of a country threatening to use nuclear weapons, “it’s my honor to do it.”