What Action Follows Trump-Kim Summit May Be Even More Important

Jun 12, 2018
Originally published on June 12, 2018 8:16 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump and Kim Jong Un have signed an agreement to move towards what President Trump has described as the, quote, "complete denuclearization of North Korea." The two men met, they shook hands, and they talked about the historic nature of this deal. In a press conference a couple hours later, President Trump thanked other world leaders, including China's Xi Jinping. And then he went on to say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Most importantly, I want to thank Chairman Kim for taking the first bold step toward a bright, new future for his people. Our unprecedented meeting, the first between an American president and a leader of North Korea, proves that real change is indeed possible.

MARTIN: The question now, of course, is what that change might look like. We have NPR's Elise Hu. She covers this issue from her base in Seoul, South Korea. We also have NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley with us - both here in Singapore with me. Hi guys. Thanks for being here.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Hey there.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: All right, Scott, I want to start with you. President Trump spoke with the media after signing this agreement, and he gave a press conference. In that, did he give any more details about what exactly is in this document?

HORSLEY: Well, the document itself is pretty thin. It's only a little over a page long, and the - Trump said there are some things that he and Kim agreed to that are not spelled out in this document. For example, Kim has agreed to destroy a missile engine test site - the missiles that would be used to deliver nuclear weapons - so that would be, you know, one piece of the verification that you'd be looking for in denuclearization. On the flip side, Trump has agreed to suspend military exercises that the U.S. ordinarily conducts with South Korea and which have been a provocation for the North. Trump, of course, has always complained about the cost of the big U.S. military presence in South Korea, says over he'd like to draw that down. That's something that certainly North Korea would be very eager to see and China as well.

MARTIN: I think we have a clip of the president talking about that. Let's listen to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should.

MARTIN: Elise Hu, is that a good thing for South Korea?

HU: What this amounts to is a proposal that China has been advocating for a long time called freeze for freeze - North Korea freezing its testing of nuclear weapons in exchange for the U.S. freezing its annual military exercises. And it's something that the U.S. traditionally would consider something that it would not, you know, do because it would be amount - it would amount to a concession, a freebie concession, to North Korea because the U.S. line on this was always that these drills are defensive and purely defensive in nature. South Korean Blue House just put out a statement saying, quote, "at this moment, the meaning and intention of President Trump's remarks requires more clear understanding."

MARTIN: So time will tell.

HORSLEY: Wow. So this is something Trump apparently did without consulting with South Korea. He did say he planned to talk - in his news conference, he said he planned to talk with President Moon shortly. But this is just another instance where Trump has been conducting this diplomacy very much on his own.

MARTIN: Just in seconds remaining, Scott, what happens now? Where does the work begin?

HORSLEY: Well, there's going to be a lot of it. You know, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the key here is V - that's the verification piece of the puzzle - because North Korea has a long history of backsliding on nuclear deals. There is nothing in this agreement that talks about what that verification will consist of, so that will be the work for the diplomats going forward.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Scott Horsley. I was also joined here in Singapore by NPR's Elise Hu. Thanks to you both.

HU: You're welcome.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.