Trump-Kim summit: Trump says U.S. will end its ‘war games’ with South Korea
SINGAPORE — President Trump said he “developed a very special bond” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their historic summit here Tuesday and proclaimed the start of a new era that could break a cycle of nuclear brinkmanship and stave off a military confrontation.
“Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war,” Trump said at a news conference in Singapore following more than four hours of talks with Kim.
Trump said Kim “reaffirmed” his commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and also agreed to destroy a missile site in the country.
“We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” the president said.
Trump sounded triumphant following his meeting with Kim, expressing confidence that the North Korean leader was serious about abandoning his nuclear program and transforming his country from an isolated rogue regime into a respected member of the world community.
But Trump provided few specifics about what steps Kim would take to back up his promise to denuclearize his country and how the United States would verify that North Korea was keeping its pledge to get rid of its nuclear weapons, saying that would be worked out in future talks.
“We will do it as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done,” he said of the process to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.
The result was a diplomatic breakthrough after decades of hostility, but no guarantee that North Korea would follow through. Trump grounded his optimism in his own confidence that he can read an adversary and that his gamble of attempting personal rapport with a dictator would pay off.
Trump said Kim agreed to shutter a missile engine testing site and to allow the return of remains of American service members lost in North Korea during the Korean War more than 60 years ago.
Kim, it seems, got at least one benefit up front.
Trump announced that he will order an end to regular “war games” that the United States conducts with ally South Korea, a reference to annual joint military exercises that are an irritant to North Korea.
Trump called the exercises “very provocative” and “inappropriate” in light of the optimistic opening he sees with North Korea. Ending the exercises would also save money, Trump said.
The United States has conducted such exercises for decades as a symbol of unity with Seoul and previously rejected North Korean complaints as illegitimate. Ending the games would be a significant political benefit for Kim, but Trump insisted he did not give up leverage.
“I think the meeting was every bit as good for the United States as it was for North Korea,” Trump said, casting himself as a leader who can secure a deal that has eluded past presidents.
One major issue that appeared to remain unresolved following the summit was North Korea’s brutal human rights record, which Trump had lambasted last year after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who was held captive in the North for 17 months and then released in a coma. The University of Virginia student died days after he was flown home to his family in Ohio.
Trump said human rights issues were raised Tuesday, but he did not give details or suggest that he conditioned U.S. offers on Kim making improvements. He said Warmbier “did not die in vain.”
U.S. sanctions will remain in place for now, Trump said. Some of those sanctions relate to human rights, others to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
South Korea’s presidential office seemed blindsided by the announcement on the joint exercises.
“We need to try to understand what President Trump said,” a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said.
However, he said, South Korea understood the need to try to make progress in North Korea’s relations with the United States.