South Koreans watch as Trump and Kim meet. Photo: Xinhua News Agency

The date June 30, 2019, became a landmark in US-North Korea relations when US President Donald Trump met North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone.

Trump then crossed the border and became the first US president to set foot on North Korean soil.

Trump meeting a North Korean leader on his turf may very likely have been an impromptu meeting, but judging from Kim’s reaction, it was not only approved but also seen positively in North Korea. Kim said the two leaders shaking hands at the border between North and South Korea was significant and the meeting would play a positive role in any future dialog.

Kim said the handshake between a North Korean and US leader suggested that things have changed. Trump stepped on North Korean soil, which shows America’s willingness to progress in terms of diplomacy.

Two other former US presidents set foot on North Korean soil, but did so after they finished their terms in office. Bill Clinton visited the country in August 2009 and Jimmy Carter visited twice, in June 1994 and August 2010. Trump was the first to visit while serving as president. Many say Trump made the move as he hopes to improve public opinion for his re-election in 2020.

However, can this sudden and unclear diplomacy in Northeast Asia produce tangible results? This is beyond the field of public opinion and people are most concerned about the future of Northeast Asia.

Trump stated that the US would form a task force to continue talks with North Korea. The task force would be set up within the next two to three weeks under the leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo handpicked the members of the task force, who were also agreed under a package of representatives from North Korea as well.

North Korea’s recent cold attitude to the US was mainly due to their dissatisfaction with Pompeo, National Security Adviser Bolton and other officials, as the North Koreans believed they were prejudiced against them during negotiations. The task force was reorganized as Trump agreed to let “the most trusted people to come forward during negotiations.”

It is obvious that by introducing new faces to the talks, Trump wants the negotiations to continue. However, there are still many differences between the two countries regarding the nuclear talks.

Sure, the “historic handshake” may be a highlight in terms of public opinion, but the longevity of that depends on if an historical outcome can be reached that affects the future of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has pointed out that he will not be rushing to make progress but may lift or ease economic sanctions on North Korea at some point. All in all, the ultimate goal for Trump is to turn the nuclear talks into an asset for his 2020 campaign.

This article was first published on and translated by Kamaran Malik.

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