SEOUL, (PEGGY CHANG-VOANEWS).- South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Saturday afternoon with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un near the two Koreas' heavily militarized border.

The leaders exchanged views on how to prepare for the North's possible summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, the South Korean presidential office said.

Meanwhile, Trump attacked the New York Times for its coverage of the developments, including a reported rift between national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday in a statement, “The White House pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place.” Politico magazine reported earlier that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials were preparing to depart later this weekend.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chimed in Saturday afternoon via Twitter that patience is necessary.

"Stay focused. It's about the outcome. It's about keeping Americans and the world safe," he wrote.

South Korea said Saturday it is "carefully watching the developments"between the United States and North Korea, after 24 hours of uncertainty as Trump first cancelled , then mused about reinstatement of a historic summit on June 12 in Singapore with North Korea's Kim.

"We see it as fortunate that the embers of dialogue between North Korea and the United States weren't fully extinguished and are coming alive again," Seoul's presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement.

Striking an optimistic tone, President Trump said Friday that the White House is having "very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit".

In an evening tweet, Trump said the talks "will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date."

The newest development came after North Korea said early Friday that it remained willing to meet with Trump despite his decision to scrap plans for the meeting with leader Kim.

Trump canceled the planned talks with Kim on Thursday, blaming recent threatening statements by Pyongyang to pull out of the summit over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials.

North Korean diplomat Kim Kye Gwan said Pyongyang's recent criticisms had been a reaction to unbridled American rhetoric, and that the current antagonism showed "the urgent necessity" for the summit.

"We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other U.S. presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit," Kim Kye Gwan's statement said.

In a letter released by the White House on Thursday, Trump said, “I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate at this time to have this long-planned meeting."

The White House said Trump dictated the letter himself.

According to a senior administration official, other factors also led the president to cancel the summit, including poor communication, broken promises and the North Koreans' failure to show up for a preparatory meeting in Singapore.

“We simply couldn't get them to pick up the phone,” a White House senior official told reporters on Thursday.

The last straw, according to the White House, was an insult aimed at U.S. Vice President Mike Pence earlier Thursday in a statement by North Korea’s vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui. She called Pence a “political dummy” and warned - in rhetoric typical of that uttered by Pyongyang - of a nuclear confrontation. In his letter, Trump responded, referencing U.S. nuclear capabilities “so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

Trump has emphasized that sanctions and “the maximum pressure campaign will continue” to be applied on North Korea while expressing hope Pyongyang’s leadership would decide to join the community of nations.

Trump’s letter caught allies by surprise. The president did not call South Korean President Moon Jae-in or Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to inform them of it, White House officials confirmed.

Moon expressed “deep regret” over the summit’s cancelation and urged that direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang be held as soon as possible.

North Korea had threatened to pull out of the unprecedented summit after U.S. officials advocated a so-called Libya model approach, which involved that African country’s total nuclear dismantlement before any concessions were granted.

WASHINGTON.- North Korea’s continued development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs poses a grave threat to international peace and security. We remain committed to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and dismantlement of North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile programs, but North Korea must match its words with concrete actions.

To support this goal, we will continue to take action to impose maximum economic pressure on North Korea, in keeping with relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).

We are concerned by North Korea’s evasion of international sanctions and its continued ability to access the international financial system.

North Korea does little business in its own true name and uses a network of agents, front and shell companies, and complex ownership structures to access the international financial system.

As the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) noted in its March 2018 report, in 2017, more than 30 representatives of North Korean banks have been operating outside of North Korea, in contravention of UNSCRs.

The PoE also noted that DPRK trade representatives continue to play a role in the country’s prohibited programs, including by acting as fronts for designated entities and individuals, as well as engaging in commercial activities that violate the UNSCRs.

We call on all countries to fully and effectively implement their UNSCR obligations with respect to North Korea and, in this regard, to expeditiously expel these bank and trade representatives in accordance with their UN obligations.

Financial institutions in G7 countries also play an important role in the fight against North Korea’s illicit global financial activity, and we will engage and share information with them, as appropriate, to expose North Korea’s deceptive financial practices and thereby protect the integrity of the international financial system.

We call on countries to similarly engage their financial institutions so they will be on alert and take steps to implement necessary additional scrutiny to ensure that they are not processing transactions on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities.

U.S. Department of the Treasury

SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN).- The Inter-Korean summit began Friday morning with a historic step as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the military demarcation line that has divided Korea for over 60 years. At the end, the leaders of the communist North and Democratic South embraced prior to announcing a joint declaration committing to denuclearization and peace.

"Today, Chairman Kim Jong Un and I confirmed that the realization of the nuclear-free Korean peninsula through complete denuclearization is our common goal," said President Moon Jae-in at a ceremony to announce what they are calling the Panmunjom declaration.

The North Korean leader also endorsed the joint declaration as well as past inter-Korean agreements without elaborating or specifically acknowledging the agreed upon outcome to dismantle his country's threatening nuclear program.

"We have decided to open this transitional phase of improvement in relations and development by thoroughly implementing the North-South Declarations and all the agreements that have already been adopted," said Kim.

Historic crossing

Kim is now the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korea. He was greeted by Moon, who waited on the South Korean side of the borderline in the village of Panmunjom, the historic site, where the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953. The two leaders smiled as they shook hands across the border. Kim then stepped over the cement boundary marker.

Kim said he was, "excited to meet at this historic place" and later wondered "why it took so long" to get there.

"It really has a strong emotional impact on me," said Kim about the warm welcome he received from the people of South Korea.

President Moon welcomed Kim to the South and said he would like to one day visit North Korea. Laughing, the two together momentarily stepped over the border marker into the North's side of the demilitarized zone.

The two leaders posed for pictures with an unsmiling Kim dressed in a communist Mao-style suit and a smiling Moon in western business attire.

They also agreed to continue efforts to improve relations that had grown increasingly tense over the North's continued nuclear and missile tests, especially accelerated efforts in the last two years to develop nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability to target the U.S. mainland.

"We declared together that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun," said Moon.

At the summit Moon and Kim conducted two rounds of meetings during the day, and the South Korean leader hosted a dinner that featured a variety of famous Korean dishes including Pyongyang-style cold noodles. Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju, and sister Kim Yo Jong Un joined the delegations for dinner with Moon and his wife, Kim Jung-sook.

Diplomatic pivot

This year, Kim pivoted to embrace diplomacy and agreed to engage in negotiations to end his country's nuclear program. Both President Moon's diplomatic outreach to the North, and U.S. President Donald Trump's maximum pressure campaign, which imposed tough sanctions that block virtually all North Korean exports, and that emphasized the possible use of military force, are credited with compelling Kim to change his previous confrontational stance.

The joint declaration "confirmed the common goal of realizing complete denuclearization, and a nuclear free Korean Peninsula."

It also recognized as "meaningful and crucial," North Korea's recent unilateral concessions to suspend further nuclear and missile tests, and to close its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. However, some analysts have expressed skepticism that these measures are meaningful as they only freeze and not reduce the country's nuclear capabilities.

There were also indications that perhaps more serious diplomatic progress was being made away from the official talks when Moon and Kim engaged in what seemed to be a very candid conversation without any staff or advisers present as they sat together for 30 minutes outside the conference hall in the afternoon. Television cameras recorded the meeting from a distance.

Trump-Kim summit

The declaration is meant to prepare the diplomatic ground for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit, expected to be held in May or June. South Korean officials have assured the Trump administration that Kim is prepared to commit to completely and verifiably dismantling his nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S., sanctions relief, and developmental assistance.

President Trump applauded the commitment to peace and denuclearization on Twitter, but added that "only time will tell" if the goals are achieved.

Is everybody believing what is going on. James Comey can’t define what a leak is. He illegally leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION but doesn’t understand what he did or how serious it is. He lied all over the place to cover it up. He’s either very sick or very dumb. Remember sailor!

While Trump has expressed optimism that a nuclear deal with North Korea can be reached, he has said he will walk out of the meeting if there are signs it "is not going to be fruitful."

Given the unconventional nature of these summits, which come at the beginning and not the end of the negotiation process, and North Korea's past performance in breaking agreements, many remain skeptical that these high-level meetings will lead to real denuclearization progress.

"The devil is in the details and as we have found in the past, in three separate sets of negotiations with North Korea, the devil is always in the details," said Victor Cha, a North Korea scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

Peace treaty

Moon and Kim also agreed to work on measures to improve cross-border security, restart family reunions, and work toward replacing the longstanding armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 with a permanent peace treaty, which would also require the approval of the U.S. and China as signatories to the truce.

"I think there is room for North and South Korea to make progress on a peace settlement. That is fundamentally a Korean issue, including confidence building measures along the DMZ, [demilitarized zone], a declaration to end hostilities," said Gary Samore, a former White House arms control coordinator and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

After their historic talks, the leaders and their wives attended a banquet, along with Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong. They raised a toast and were entertained by a variety of musical performances. Kim Jong Un bought Pyongyang-style cold noodles for the dinner, at the request of his South Korean counterpart. The starring role of the noodles led to long lines outside restaurants in South Korea's capital that were serving the dish.

This was the third inter-Korean summit, but the first to take place in South Korea. The meetings in 2000 and 2007 were held in the North.

Lee Youn-jee contributed to this report from Seoul.

CoreadelNorte11SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN-VOANEWS).- North Korea’s sudden threat to pull out of the upcoming summit with the U.S. raises new doubts of whether a denuclearization deal is possible.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to meet with U.S President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12 to work out an agreement to end the North’s nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and an end to punishing international sanctions.

But on Wednesday North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Kwan released a statement through the state-run KCNA news agency that criticized “unbridled remarks” made specifically by the U.S. president’s National Security Adviser John Bolton demanding that Pyongyang completely decommission its entire nuclear arsenal, along with its ballistic missile program and chemical weapons stockpile, before receiving any compensation or concessions.

He expressed “indignation” at the U.S uncompromising position and said North Korea might pull out of the Trump-Kim summit, unless the Trump administration acts with “sincerity” to improve relations through dialogue.

“If the United States is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the North Korea-U.S. summit,” the statement said.

The vice foreign minister also said it was “absolutely absurd” that Bolton would compare Libya’s experience dismantling its relatively rudimentary nuclear program as a model for dealing with the North’s more advanced and expansive capabilities.

He also denounced the Trump administration for “miscalculating the magnanimity” of Kim Jong Un’s decision to suspend further nuclear and missile tests, and his willingness to engage in nuclear talks, as “signs of weakness,” that were the result of what the U.S. administration has dubbed its “maximum pressure” campaign that led international efforts to impose punishing sanctions banning 90% of North Korean trade.

​The vice minister’s remarks came shortly after the North abruptly canceled inter-Korean talks planned for Wednesday, citing ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S.

Last week American and South Korea forces began their two-week Max Thunder exercise that involves 100 aircraft, including eight F-22 radar-evading jets, as well as F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. The North derided the drills as a rehearsal for invasion that undermines improving inter-Korean ties.

Cautious reactions

The U.S. and South Korea reacted with caution to North Korea’s more confrontational posture.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conferred with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday and said the U.S. would continue planning for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit but continue to monitor the situation.

Pompeo, who recently met with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, said on Sunday that the U.S. would lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

However, Kim Kye Gwan's statement appeared to reject such an arrangement, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic trade with the United States.

Wednesday’s denouncement of the joint drills also seemed to contradict what the North Korean leader reportedly said earlier this year. A South Korean diplomatic envoy that met with Kim in Pyongyang this year, said the North Korean leader had dropped his objection to U.S., South Korea military exercises as a barrier to developing a peace agreement.

The South Korean Unification Ministry said it was “regrettable” that the North unilaterally postponed ministerial-level inter-Korean talks, and the North’s cancelation of talks was not in line with the “spirit of the recent Panmunjom Declaration” calling for increased cross border cooperation that was signed by Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the inter-Korean summit.

"The South Korean government has a firm willingness to faithfully implement the Panmunjom Declaration and is urging the North to respond quickly to the talks for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula," said Baik Tae-Hyun, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesperson.

Bargaining positions

It is unclear if the North’s threat to pull out of the summit with the U.S. reflects a change in policy or a negotiating tactic to exploit Trump’s repeated claims that he may achieve a historic diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea that has eluded past presidents.

“If you signal you are desperate for some kind of deal, then your counterpart can sense that you are willing to make concessions, and they can drive a hard bargain, and this could be a reflection of that,” said Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea analyst with Troy University in Seoul.

The more aggressive stance taken by the North may also reflect growing pressure from conservative elements within the military or Communist Party that are worried the U.S. seems to be unilaterally dictating the terms for a nuclear deal.

“It is true that North Korea is anxious about the situation where it needs to back down on everything to the U.S.,” said Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector and analyst with the World Institute of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

John Delury, a North Korea analyst with Yonsei University in Seoul suggested on Twitter that the U.S. and South Korea address the North’s sudden threat to withdraw from talks by making a small but meaningful good-will gesture, given that the Kim government has already made a number of concessions, including releasing three American prisoners, and suspending missile and nuclear tests.

However North Korea skeptics say the Kim government should not be rewarded for merely meeting its minimum obligations by suspending nuclear and missile tests that violate U.N. restrictions or for releasing prisoners that were unjustly apprehended by the repressive state.

Lee Yoon-jee contributed to this report.

SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN-VOANEWS).- North Korea’s recent threat to pull out of the upcoming nuclear summit with the U.S. has added new urgency to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Washington next Tuesday.

President Moon has played a key role in facilitating the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled to be held in Singapore June 12.

Diplomatic jeopardy

At the recent inter-Korean summit Moon got Kim to affirm a broad commitment to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and that opened the door for Trump and Kim to negotiate a more detailed agreement to end North Korea’s nuclear program.

However, uncompromising positions recently voiced by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton demanding the North’s unilateral disarmament, and by North Korea in response canceling further talks with the South and threatening to pull out of the U.S.-North Korea summit, have put the prospects for continued diplomatic progress in jeopardy.

President Trump has tried to reassure the North Korean leadership that a nuclear deal would not weaken the Kim government, but would bolster it.

“He'd be in his country, he'd be running his country. His country would be very rich.” Trump said Thursday while meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the White House.

Moon mediation

President Moon, who will meet with Trump in Washington on Tuesday, has said he will try to moderate differences between the U.S. and North Korea over how to achieve denuclearization, while also giving the Kim government the security guarantees and sanctions relief it wants.

But the convergence of interests that have brought Moon, Trump and Kim to all agree to give diplomacy a chance seems to be diverging over how to bridge the gap between the U.S. demand for complete denuclearization prior to offering any concessions, and the North’s insistence on a step by step process that would ease sanctions early on for incremental measures, such as giving up some nuclear material and allowing in outside inspectors.

“We have three leaders, each thinks he is in the driver’s seat and it is like three cars hurling toward an intersection. Each one convinced he has the right of way and the other two drivers will yield,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center while speaking at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul this week.

Trump and Kim’s unconventional approach to diplomacy, by rushing to meet before a deal is worked out, also runs the risk of being undermined by hardline elements in their governments.

“I think there are questions in both Pyongyang and Washington about how the leaders are connected to their own bureaucracies.Maybe we are seeing evidence of that question even today,” said Scott Snyder, the director of the U.S.-Korea policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, who was also in Seoul for the security-related leadership conference.

There are also concerns that China may have encouraged North Korea to take a more gradual approach to denuclearization by promising to ease sanctions no matter the outcome of the summit.

Inter-Korean friction

Pyongyang has also taken on a harsher tone with Seoul this week, with a high level negotiator calling the South Korean government "ignorant and incompetent," denouncing U.S.-South Korean military drills underway, and threatening to halt all inter-Korean talks.

Some South Korean conservatives staged a rally on Friday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to protest President Moon’s efforts to pursue a peace deal with a North Korea government they say cannot be trusted.

“They only talked very vaguely about the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. What concerns me the most is the lack of transparency between Kim Jong Un and President Moon,” said Byun Hee-jae, a rally organizer with a conservative organization in Seoul called Media Watch.

However, the vast majority of South Koreans support Moon’s persistent diplomatic efforts to facilitate denuclearization talks and improve relations with the North.


WHITE HOUSE, (STEVE HERMAN-VOANEWS).- U.S. President Donald Trump said his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might not take place next month.

"If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later," Trump said. "It may not work out for June 12."

Trump added, however, "There's a good chance we'll have the meeting," terming the preliminary discussions between his administration and North Korean officials, so far, "a good experience."

Trump also said of Kim that "I think he's absolutely serious" about the planned talks.

Trump, speaking in the Oval Office alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, explained, "There are certain conditions that we want. I think we will get those conditions."

Asked about the conditions, Trump replied, "I'd rather not say." But he stated that the denuclearization of North Korea "must take place."

"After talking about the summit with unbridled enthusiasm, President Trump is now playing it cool, hinting that he could just as easily walk away," said Jean Lee, director of Korean history and public policy at the Wilson Center. "We know he wants it — and so does Kim Jong Un — but it's a complicated courtship between these leaders of two countries that remain in a technical state of war."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters at a State Department briefing Tuesday, said the U.S. is still working toward the June 12 summit date, but wouldn't predict whether the summit would take place. But he said he was "confident we'll get there" in the end.

Might call off meeting

North Korea has indicated it might call off the meeting due to disagreements on conditions by the United States for unilateral denuclearization.

“All in one [denuclearization] would be a lot better," Trump stated but acknowledged that for "physical reasons" that might not be immediately possible, Kim would have to agree to abandon his nuclear arsenal "over a very short period of time."

Trump, during a 35-minute exchange with reporters in the Oval Office, said if Kim agrees to that, "I will guarantee his safety," which would make Kim happy and "his country will be rich."

South Korea, China and Japan, according to Trump, are ready to invest "very, very large sums of money into helping to make North Korea great" if there's a deal made to get rid of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.

"If it doesn't work out, he can't be happy," said Trump, who recently warned that North Korea would be "decimated" if it does not agree to give up its atomic arsenal.

"North Korea will chafe at this approach," Lee at the Wilson Center told VOA News. "Kim Jong Un doesn't want to be treated, publicly, like a pauper. He wants to come to the table as an equal, and from a position of perceived strength, not as a supplicant."

Moon, who flew to Washington from Seoul to try to persuade Trump not to call off next month's meeting in Singapore with the North's leader, said he has "every confidence [Trump] will be able to achieve a historic feat" by getting North Korea to denuclearize, ending the Korean War, establishing relations between Washington and Pyongyang and thus bringing "peace and prosperity" to the northern half of the peninsula.

"I will spare no effort to provide all necessary support," Moon said. "The fate and the future of Korea hinge on this."

The two-hour talks Tuesday between Trump and Moon marked their sixth meeting, although they have spoken on the telephone numerous other times.

Trump in charge

Moon, in the Oval Office discussion, credited Trump with bringing about the recent positive change of tone from North Korea, saying, "The person who is in charge is President Trump. President Trump has been able to achieve this dramatic change."

Trump, in response to a question from a South Korean reporter, said, "I have tremendous confidence in President Moon, and I think South Korea is very lucky to have him."

After a historic inter-Korean meeting between Moon and Kim last month, a followup round of high-level North-South talks was abruptly canceled by Pyongyang, which expressed anger about continuing military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

Trump said the two Koreas have been separated for decades by "an artificial border" and predicted "maybe someday in the future they'll get together and you'll go back to one Korea."

Also under discussion between Seoul and Washington is the size and cost of U.S. forces in South Korea to defend it against the North.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering reducing the number of American military personnel from the current level of 28,500. A South Korean official said Seoul and Washington "remain far apart on the cost-sharing issue."

Asked by VOA News at Tuesday's White House briefing about the outcome of the discussion concerning the U.S. troops, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied she had no immediate information.

"At least in the meeting that I was in that did not come up," Sanders added.

Steve Herman

Steve Herman is VOA's White House Bureau Chief.

SINGAPORE, (STEVE HERMAN-VOANEWS).- In an agreement signed Tuesday in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while U.S. President Donald Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea.

The document also calls for the two countries to jointly work on efforts to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, to establish new U.S.-North Korea relations and to recover the remains of prisoners of war and military members missing in action. The two sides also promised to hold follow-up negotiations.

“We’re going to denuke North Korea,” Trump told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren.

He also said neither side issued ultimatums and that the agreement Tuesday was the result of months of negotiations.

“You know that could have ended in a war, that could have ended with many millions of people — you know North Korea very well, Seoul has 28 million people, that could have ended with millions of people dead but we ended with a deal,” he said.

Trump also told VOA that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will remain in place, but announced one concession long-sought by North Korea.

"We are going to get out of the war games that cost so much money," he said.

Trump said at later news conference that existing U.S. sanctions will remain in place until North Korean nuclear weapons "are no longer a factor."

As for verification, Trump said he and Kim discussed the issue and that monitoring denuclearization efforts would be achieved “by having a lot of people there.” He also predicted Kim would begin work right away to “live up to” the agreement.

Asked if the talks included specifics on the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Trump said “what they have is substantial.”

On human rights, Trump said Tuesday’s meetings only very briefly touched on the topic, but that the two sides would discuss it more in the future. When asked about thousands of people imprisoned in labor camps, Trump said he thinks he has helped them because things in North Korea will change.

“I think they are one of the great winners today,” he said.

He cited American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in 2016 and died a year ago after being repatriated to the United States with severe brain damage.

“Otto did not die in vain, he had a lot to do with us being here today,” Trump said.

'Special bond'

The U.S. president repeatedly struck a positive tone about Kim, thanking the North Korean leader for taking what he called a bold step and saying he “has the chance to seize an incredible future for his people.”

He also thanked the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea for their efforts in making Tuesday’s summit happen.

Hours earlier as he sat alongside Kim at the signing ceremony, Trump said the two leaders “have developed a special bond” and that after several hours of talks Tuesday and the signing of the agreement he thinks the U.S. relationship with North Korea “will be very different than in the past.”

Both Trump and Kim expressed gratitude toward each other for the meetings.Trump said he would “absolutely” invite Kim to visit the White House and is open to visiting Pyongyang as well.

“Today we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said, speaking through a translator.”The world will see a major change.”

Kim at one point told Trump that many people around the world would see their meeting as a kind of fantasy, as if it the event was a “science fiction movie.”

​Historic meeting

They first met Tuesday for about 40 minutes alone, except for their translators, before bringing in delegations from their respective sides for a working lunch. They walked outside together after the lunch, stopping briefly to look at the U.S. president's special limousine.

"We had a really fantastic meeting, a lot of progress, very positive," Trump said.

The U.S. side included Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The North Korean participants included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho, and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party.

Tuesday marked the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Dozens of cameras snapped photos as the two men first came together in front of a background of U.S. and North Korean flags.

The language in Tuesday’s agreement was not as strong as the CVID standard Pompeo set out. But the secretary of state still seemed positive about the outcome.

“It’s a great day,” Pompeo told VOA.

About 5,000 journalists are in Singapore for the occasion, but only a handful of American and North Korean reporters and photographers were permitted at the venue when the two leaders greet each other.

Reporter Bill Gallo contributed to this report.

SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN-VOANEWS).- The recent U.S. missile strikes against Syria could increase pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, or reinforce in Pyongyang the need for nuclear deterrence.

The United States, France and Britain fired 105 missiles at three Syrian chemical weapons facilities on Saturday, in response to an alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma that killed at least 40 people and wounded or sickened hundreds of others. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied any use of banned weapons.

The combined military strike on Syria comes as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are preparing for an expected summit in late May or early June to discuss dismantling the North’s nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees.

Maximum pressure

Trump’s willingness to use force against Syria can be seen to reinforce his “maximum pressure” campaign message, that in addition to imposing tough sanctions banning most North Korean exports, the U.S. would take military action, if necessary, to force Kim to terminate his nuclear program and end the continued development of a nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.

Calling the U.S. attack on Syria “a warning for Pyongyang,” the South Korean newspaper the Korea Joongang Daily, in an editorial on Monday said, “If Kim wants to be free from the fear of a potential raid, then he must be willing to denuclearize.”

From this perspective the U.S. show of force in Syria will increase pressure on the leadership in North Korea to offer meaningful nuclear concessions at the Trump-Kim summit.

“Unless it abandons at least part of its nuclear and missile capabilities then the Trump administration will not be satisfied,” said Bong Young-shik, a political analyst with the Yonsei University Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul

Nuclear deterrence

However the U.S. military strike on Syria could also reinforce concerns in North Korea that giving up its nuclear deterrent would make the country more vulnerable to a similar attack.

“If it thinks that its regime is not guaranteed, it will keep the nuclear program,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor of American studies at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

North Korea has long justified the need for its nuclear program by pointing to the fate of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, who was overthrown and killed by U.S. and NATO backed rebel forces, just a few years after he agreed to give up his country’s nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and its allies justified their military action in Libya as a “humanitarian intervention” to prevent government forces from slaughtering the civilian opposition. Without a nuclear deterrent, leaders in Pyongyang worry the U.S. could use a similar humanitarian justification to intervene in North Korea.

“The U.S. can view North Korea as a autocratic state or human rights violator, and then it can always overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime that does not have nuclear program,” said Professor Kim.

From this perspective, the Kim government could use the strike against Syria to emphasize its step-by-step approach to denuclearization to maintain stability, which would include the reduction or removal of U.S. forces in Korea over time as part of the required security guarantees.

Asia reaction

Major U.S. Asian allies Japan, South Korea and Australia voiced strong support for combined military action to punish Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons and to deter other countries as well.

China, however, objected to the U.S. and its allies taking “unilateral military action” prior to an impartial investigation and without the consent of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia, a close ally of Syria, holds veto power.

Lee Yoon-jee in Seoul contributed to this report.