After decades of hostility between the U.S. and North Korea, five hours of landmark discussions between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un culminated on Tuesday in Singapore with declarations of a “very special bond” between the two leaders — but no guaranteed pledges of nuclear disarmament.
“We both want to do something, we both are going to do something and we have developed a very special bond,” Trump said at the end of the historic summit. “We are going to take care of a very big and a very dangerous problem for the world.”
But there were scant details as to what measures Kim would take to back up on his vow to denuclearize his nation — and how the U.S. would confirm he would remain true to his words.
The statement Trump and Kim signed said the North Korean leader “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” In exchange, Trump agreed to “provide security guarantees” to North Korea.
More telling, perhaps, was the development of the president’s “very special bond” with Kim, who has a scathing record of human rights abuses. One American, Otto Warmbier, was among the victims of Kim’s regime. The University of Virginia student was held captive in the North for 17 months before being returned to the U.S. in a coma, only to die days later.
“I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past,” Trump said during the summit.
In a solo press news conference following his meeting with Kim, Trump said Warmbier’s death contributed to the summit taking place. “Without Otto, this would not have happened,” the president said.
Even Kim, who has never traveled as far as Singapore from his home country since taking on his father’s role as North Korea’s leader in 2011, seemed to realize the surreality of the encounter.
“Many people in the world will think of this as a (inaudible) form of fantasy . . . from a science fiction movie,” Kim’s translator was overheard saying as the two leaders walked through the Capella Singapore hotel.
At the end of the summit, Trump praised the talks as a historic – and personal – achievement.
“We learned a lot about each other and our countries,” Trump said. “I learned he’s a very talented man.”
When pressed about his comments in light of Kim’s notoriously poor record when it comes to the treatment of his citizens, Trump praised the autocrat’s ability to run a country at a young age.
“He is very talented,” Trump said. “Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it, and run it tough.”
Trump said he would “absolutely” extend an invitation to the White House to his North Korean counterpart.
“Today, we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said through a translator. “The world will see a major change.”
Trump’s budding bromance with the North Korean despot sharply contrasts his contentious relationship with patriots and lawmakers.
While the president is getting friendly with the leader of a regime who has been routinely called out for its nuclear provocations and human rights abuses, it is worth remembering the number of American heroes he has blasted, among them Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent roughly five-and-half years in captivity in Vietnam where he was repeatedly tortured.
Trump has said McCain is “not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” At a press conference following his comments, Trump denied saying that McCain isn’t a war hero and said, “If somebody’s a prisoner, I consider them a war hero.”
Trump has also said, “I think John McCain’s done very little for the veterans. I’m very disappointed in John McCain.”
He has also repeatedly mocked Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic political opponent, over her claim of Cherokee ancestry by referring to her as “Pocahontas” – even calling her that in front of decorated Navajo veterans in the Oval Office.
The Trump administration has also attacked longtime American allies. Most recently, Peter Navarro, the White House National Trade Council director, said there was “a special place in hell” for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Meanwhile, Trump has no problem describing notorious human rights abuser Kim Jong Un as someone who “loves his people.” He also called Kim “funny” and “smart” while speaking with Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren.
“But he’s starved them. He’s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?” Van Susteren asked.
“Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it,” Trump answered. “But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago, because that’s really when this whole thing started.”
When asked if he had a message for the North Korean people, Trump said, “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well. We had a great chemistry.”