Singapore, June 12 (IANS): US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees for Pyongyang during their landmark summit here on Tuesday, ushering in the start of a new era that could break a cycle of nuclear brinkmanship and stave off a military confrontation.
“Chairman Kim has before him an opportunity like no other to be remembered as the leader who ushered in a glorious new era of prosperity for his people,” Trump said at a news conference in Singapore following more than four hours of talks with Kim.
“He reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the US leader said, adding that Kim also agreed to destroy a missile site in North Korea. “We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.”
Earlier in the day, Trump and Kim met at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s resort island of Sentosa and signed a pact committing to work towards the development of fresh relations and promote “peace, prosperity and security” in the region.
“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to North Korea and Chairman Kim reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the agreement said.
Trump said he would push for North Korea to denuclearize as “fast as it can mechanically” but added it could take a long time. He said that sanctions on North Korea would be removed “when we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor”.
The US leader said the summit marked a “great moment in the history of the world” and stressed that denuclearization would be verifiable by international and US experts. Trump and Kim agreed to have follow-on negotiations led by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a senior North Korean official.
Trump also said joint military exercises with South Korea would be halted, which he described as “too expensive”. He said he had agreed to stop the “war games” because he considers them “very provocative” and said it would save the US “a tremendous amount of money”.
The war games would not be revived “unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should”, Trump said, adding that he believed his North Korean counterpart would live up to the agreement.
Trump also said he hopes to eventually withdraw US forces from South Korea, but said “that’s not part of the equation right now”.
He said he had invited Kim to visit the White House and that the North Korean leader had accepted his invitation.
Pyongyang and Washington also agreed to commit to recovering the remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the 1950-53 Korean War, including an immediate repatriation of those already identified.
One major issue that appeared to remain unresolved following the summit was North Korea’s brutal human rights record, which Trump had slammed in 2017 after the death of US college student Otto Warmbier, who was held captive in Pyongyang for 17 months and then released in a coma.
The University of Virginia student died days after he was flown home to his family in Ohio. Trump said human rights issues were raised on Tuesday, but he did not give details. He said Warmbier “did not die in vain”.
After the announcement on the joint exercises by Trump, South Korea’s presidential office said: “We need to try to understand what President Trump said.”
However, a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that South Korea understood the need to try to make progress in North Korea’s relations with the US.
“We believe we need to pursue various measures to efficiently move the dialogue forward during serious ongoing talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to establish good relations between North Korea and the US,” the spokesman said.
India welcomed the Singapore meeting and described it as a “positive development”.
“We hope that the outcomes of the US-DPRK Summit will be implemented, thus paving the way for lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,” said the External Affairs Ministry.
China said that sanctions against Pyongyang could be eased if it complies with the UN resolution.
“China has consistently held that sanctions are not the goal in themselves. The Security Council’s actions should support and conform to the efforts of current diplomatic talks towards denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, and promote a political solution for the peninsula.”
The dollar however jumped to a 3-week top and Asian shares rose on news of the agreement.
Trump said he had formed a “very special bond” with Kim and that the relationship with North Korea would be very different in the future. He called Kim “very smart” and a “very worthy, very hard negotiator”.
The summit in Singapore was the first between the leaders of North Korea and the US after nearly 70 years of confrontation and 25 years of failed negotiations and tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.