Trump says US and South Korea will ‘stop the war games’ as deal signed
Statement following historic summit in Singapore gives no details on how denuclearisation will be achieved
US president Donald Trump has hailed a landmark deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in which he promised to end joint military drills with South Korea in return for a pledge to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
In a lengthy news briefing in Singapore after a morning of talks and a working lunch, a clearly delighted Mr Trump hailed a “fantastic” meeting with Mr Kim, who he described as “a talented man who loves his country very much”.
Mr Kim promised that “our countries will leave the past behind. The world will see a major change.”
There were concerns that by cancelling the joint exercises, which the North Koreans label “grave provocations” and a precursor to war, Mr Trump may have made too large a concession.
But the US leader was revelling in the success of the first ever meeting of a sitting US president with a North Korean leader, and he made regular references to the failure of previous administrations to engage in dialogue with the Pyongyang leadership.
“We spent very intensive hours together. Our unprecedented meeting proves that change is possible . . . we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” Mr Trump said.
After the two men signed a joint declaration, Mr Trump said he had asked North Korea to “do me a favour” and Mr Kim had agreed to destroy a missile engine site. It was not clear which site.
Mr Trump also framed the ending of the joint manoeuvres as a way of saving money, suggesting they were “pretty provocative”.
“It’s inappropriate to be having war games,” Mr Trump said.
The decision appears to have caught the South Koreans off-guard.
President Moon Jae-in’s presidential office was awaiting guidance on the decision to cancel the joint military exercises. Mr Moon has said he will be in touch with Mr Trump soon.
Both Mr Kim and Mr Trump left Singapore soon after the summit, held at the colonial-era Capella building on Sentosa island.
The US leader said he had assurances that Mr Kim would start work on denuclearisation “very, very quickly”.
“We will denuclearise as fast as it can be done scientifically,” said Mr Trump.
The communiqué did not refer to the international sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy for pursuing its nuclear weapons programme. Mr Trump told reporters that sanctions would remain in place until there was verification of the process.
In essence, the joint statement is very similar to the Panmunjom Agreement signed by North and South Korea after they met on the southern side of the demilitarised zone in April, but it did say the two sides had agreed to recover the remains of 6,000 missing soldiers and prisoners of war.
There were no plans to lower the US deployment of 32,000 troops in South Korea but that remained the goal.
North Korea’s appalling human rights record was discussed and Mr Trump said he expected things to get better as relations improved between the two countries.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials would hold follow-up negotiations “at the earliest possible date”, the statement said. However, it did not give any details on how denuclearisation would be achieved.
It was too early to discuss establishing diplomatic relations but Mr Trump said he was looking forward to travelling to Pyongyang “at the appropriate time”.
“I also said I would invite him [Kim Jong-un] to the White House at the appropriate time,” he said.
Earlier, the gathered press corps emitted a collective “wow” as the two leaders shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, Mr President,” said Mr Kim, in English.
The talks took place after months of wrangling and exchanges of insults between Mr Kim and Mr Trump.
They walked through the tropical garden of the hotel, and Mr Trump showed Mr Kim his huge armoured Cadillac, and also appeared to indicate the government official who carries the football containing the nuclear codes.
Successfully negotiating a deal on North Korea’s nuclear threat, which has caused major tension in the region, would mark a major victory for Mr Trump. He has been mentioned as a Nobel Peace Prize contender.