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Trump-Kim Summit

Trump and Kim leave the denuclearization details for later

US to stop ‘war games’ with South Korea but keep sanctions on North

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump sign documents at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, Singapore, on June 12.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday signed a statement in which North Korea committed itself to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

With the agreement, Kim said, "the world will see a major change.”

But the statement offers few details about how the U.S. and North Korea will go about making that major change.

Before the summit, the Trump administration was adamant about North Korea ridding itself of its nuclear weapons in a "verifiable" and "irreversible manner." The statement, however, does not include this language.

Details were also sparse later in the day, when Trump gave a press conference. The U.S. president continued to speak in lofty terms but offered little in the way of clarification.

He did tell reporters that economic sanctions on North Korea will remain, and that they will stay in place until nuclear arms are no longer effective.

He also dropped a bombshell -- that the U.S. is ready to halt military drills with South Korea. 

Trump and Kim signed the statement hours after they shook hands at the Capella Hotel, on the resort islet of Sentosa, following the first-ever encounter between the two countries' leaders. Trump and Kim also declared that they will work toward a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The president's news conference lasted over an hour. At one point, he began talking about joint military exercises that the U.S. conducts with South Korea on a regular basis.

"I call them 'war games.' They are tremendously expensive," Trump said. "The amount of money we spend on that is incredible. South Korea contributes, but not 100%, which is certainly a subject that we have to talk to them about also.

"That has to do with military expenses and also the trade. It’s a very provocative situation. Under the circumstances that we are negotiating a very comprehensive complete deal, I think it’s inappropriate to have war games.”

In Seoul, when asked for a reaction, the Blue House said it needs to figure out Trump’s intentions. Later, the same official said the Blue House understands that it is possible to consider many options in this time of serious dialogue.

But Trump also stressed, "Sanctions remain."

The joint statement mentions neither how North Korea would give up its nuclear arms nor when. "We didn't have time" to get to these details, Trump explained.

The U.S. president said denuclearization is a long process.

“I think we will do it as fast as it can be done scientifically," he said, "as fast as it can be done mechanically. There will be a point at which, when you are 20% through, you can’t go back. When you hit a certain point, you cannot go back. It’s very hard to go back."

A reporter asked how long it would take to reach this point. "We don't know," Trump replied, "but it will go pretty quickly."

“The sanctions will come off when we are sure that the nukes are no longer effective,” Trump added.

The signed document does not mention a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement" of North Korea's nuclear weapons and facilities. Trump noted that in the document Kim reaffirms his "unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." He was implying this commitment is just as good as CVID.

He emphasized that the denuclearization process will be verified by the U.S. and other nations and institutions.

Trump said he discussed human rights problems in North Korea and brought up the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea.

As for the Korean War, he said, "We can have hope it will soon end and it soon will." He did not elaborate.

The two men began their summit just after 9 a.m. They shook hands, then went into a meeting with only translators. Aides from both sides later joined the talks, which continued through a working lunch.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is hoping that a rapprochement between Washington and Pyongyang will end six decades of enmity and lead to an eventual reunification of the two Koreas.

U.S. President Donald Trump fields questions during a press conference at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island on June 12.   © AP

"President Trump and Chairman Kim [did] not settle for that outdated and familiar reality but [took] a daring step towards change," Moon said in a statement released after Trump's news conference. "Building upon the agreement reached today, we will take a new path going forward. Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation."

The agreement represents a dramatic turn of events from a year ago, when North Korea carried out a number of ballistic missile and nuclear tests. During it all, Kim and Trump hurled thinly veiled threats of nuclear war across the Pacific, and the Trump administration convinced the United Nations to impose crippling economic sanctions on North Korea. The U.S. military also applied pressure by staging exercises near the communist nation.

The historic summit was watched closely by the governments of other countries in the region -- China, Russia and Japan -- all of whom want North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Russia and China think North Korea's provocations give the U.S. an excuse to reinforce America's military presence in Northeast Asia. The two countries also want peace so they can explore economic opportunities in North Korea, which is rich in natural resources.

Japan is concerned that Trump might trade the security of U.S. allies for a diplomatic deal with North Korea. The fear is that the U.S. will agree to pull troops out of Northeast Asia before North Korea fully dismantles its nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan.

Nikkei staff writer Justina Lee and Masayuki Yuda contributed to this story.

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