(June 30): The US and North Korea agreed to restart stalled nuclear talks after Donald Trump became the first sitting American president to set foot in North Korea.

Trump hailed ties with Kim Jong Un and invited him to the White House in their third meeting, which the US president initiated in a tweet on Saturday. Kim said he was “surprised” by Trump’s request to meet, and called his short walk into North Korea “a very courageous and determined act.”

Teams from both countries will meet over the next few weeks “and we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters after spending a little more than an hour with Kim at the DemilitariSed Zone. South Korean President Moon Jae-in participated in at least part of the meeting.

Trump and Kim both spoke to reporters briefly after meeting, and the US president called it “a great honour” to cross the border.

“It’s just an honour to be with you,” Trump said later in a meeting with Kim, adding that his willingness to meet on short notice “made us both look good.” “The relationship that we’ve developed has meant so much to so many people,” he said.

While Trump has met Kim twice at summits in Singapore and Hanoi, no US president has ever met a North Korean leader in the DMZ. Trump made his audacious invitation to Kim in a tweet on Saturday during meetings at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, jolting the gathering of world leaders as well as officials in the US and Seoul.

“I saw that tweet and it felt like you’ve sent a flower of hope for the Korean Peninsula,” Moon told Trump on Sunday. “If you shake hands with Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Military Demarcation Line, it would be historic, just by the picture of it. Not only for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, but also for a permanent peace in the region, it’ll be very meaningful.”

Trump and Kim have maintained friendly relations despite failing to agree on a path forward on a deal that would ease sanctions in return for steps toward eliminating North Korea’s nuclear threat. Their second summit, in Hanoi, collapsed after Trump refused Kim’s demand for sanctions relief in exchange for only dismantling North Korea’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon.

‘Starting Point’
Moon said on Sunday that if Kim were to “sincerely, completely” dismantle Yongbyon, the international community would be able to discuss easing sanctions.

“It’ll be the starting point for an irreversible denuclearisation,” he said.

Trump defended his meetings with Kim, and claimed that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had sought to meet with the North Korean leader and been refused.

“A lot’s been done,” he said, citing Kim’s restraint from testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles since talks began between the countries. “President Obama wanted to meet and Chairman Kim would not meet him. They were begging for meetings constantly.”

While Obama said before taking office that he’d be willing to meet with Kim and other US adversaries, he never publicly sought a meeting during his presidency. US relations with North Korea turned sharply more hostile in 2009 after Pyongyang evicted international inspectors from its nuclear complex at Yongbyon and resumed development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

“We are so far advanced from where we were” in 2016, Trump said. He has repeatedly claimed that had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defeated him for the presidency, the US and North Korea would be at war.

“What’s happened is there was nuclear testing, there was ballistic missile testing, they had hostages of ours, as you know,” he said. “Very tough situation. And now we’re getting back our remains. We got back the hostages. There’s been no ballistic missile tests. And there’s been no nuclear tests. And South Korea’s a whole different place. And Japan.”

Meaningful Handshake
Throughout meetings Sunday morning, Trump and Moon both appeared unsure about whether Kim would appear. The US president repeatedly cautioned that the logistics were complicated, and he said that any meeting would be little more than a photo op.

“Chairman Kim wants to do it,” he said. “A handshake means a lot,” he added.

Moon will accompany Trump to the DMZ and has eagerly encouraged the meeting, though it’s unclear whether he’ll participate. The North Korean government has scoffed at the Blue House’s attempts to act as an intermediary in negotiations between Trump and Kim.

“The South Korean authorities would better mind their own internal business,” the North Korean news agency KCNA said last week, citing a foreign ministry official.