Trump's Asia Trip

Jun 30, 2019
Originally published on June 30, 2019 9:16 am
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot inside North Korea.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Stepping across that line was a great honor. A lot of progress has been made. A lot of friendships have been made. And this has been, in particular, a great friendship.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Trump was referring to his relationship with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, who met the president in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

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SUPREME LEADER KIM JONG UN: (Through interpreter). President Trump has just walked across the demarcation line.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Kim spoke through an interpreter.

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KIM: (Through interpreter) I believe, just looking at this action, this is an expression of his willingness to eliminate all of the unfortunate past and open a new future.

TRUMP: I just want to say that this is my honor.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The two leaders later announced that nuclear talks between the two nations would resume. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here with us now. Tam, take us back. How did this meeting come about?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, at least publicly, it started with a tweet. President Trump had long been scheduled to visit South Korea on this trip. And a stop at the Demilitarized Zone was in the plan. And then on Friday, he tweeted, quote, "If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say hello?!" And so he did. And President Trump thanked him repeatedly.

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TRUMP: And I want to thank Chairman Kim for something else. When I put out the social media notification, if he didn't show up, the press was going to make me look very bad. So you made us both look good. And I appreciate it.

KEITH: This meeting comes as Trump and Kim had started exchanging letters again in recent weeks. In February, you might remember that they held a summit in Vietnam that ended abruptly without any progress toward an agreement for North Korea to denuclearize. And since then, North Korea has actually conducted missile tests, albeit short-range tests. And Trump has been dismissive when asked about those missile tests.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what is the takeaway, then, from this meeting? Did it have substance more than just the showmanship?

KEITH: Well, our own Scott Horsley was there. And he is now on Air Force One, returning back to the U.S. with the president. In addition to this sort of historic photo op, Trump and Kim did meet for about 45 minutes away from cameras. Trump said it was a historic day. But he also said - and this gets to the issue - that it would be even more historic if something comes out of it. And that is the big question hanging over all these talks.

Other administrations avoided these sort of meetings with North Korea's leaders because they didn't want to elevate them. And President Trump has gone a different way. He argues that his relationship with Kim, his willingness to meet with him - even literally in his own territory - will eventually lead to some real tangible progress on the nuclear issue.

So Trump said that there will be teams from the two nations meeting soon, and, quote, "we'll see what happens," which is what he always says. He also invited Kim to the White House.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And finally, Tam, before I let you go, President Trump arrives back in Washington, D.C., tonight. And later in the week, he'll be giving a speech to mark the Fourth of July. This is not something presidents have traditionally done. Do you know what to expect?

KEITH: Well, a White House official is saying that it will not be a political speech, that it will be a celebration to salute America. But White House officials also often preview things that the president is going to do, and then he does something completely different, like delivering a very political speech in a nonpolitical setting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you, Tam. That was NPR White House reporter Tamara Keith.

KEITH: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.