U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in South Korea just after 1900 local time Saturday to begin a two-day summit with President Moon Jae-in, as well as a possible meeting with the North Korean leader on Sunday.
After arriving at Osan Air Base near Seoul, the President is expected to travel to the Blue House where Moon will host a dinner banquet for the two leaders, who both attended the G20 summit in Osaka earlier in the day.
Trump is expected to head back to the Blue House on Sunday morning for formal talks, before traveling to the North-South Joint Security Area (JSA) in the afternoon.
There, he hopes to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as he suggested in a surprise tweet Saturday morning that he would like to “meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”
Hours later, top North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui appeared to suggest Kim Jong Un would be open to the meeting, saying the proposal was “interesting” and that it would be “meaningful” for the two to meet at the “division line.”
But she also called attention to the informal nature of Trump’s invitation, saying in the statement released in North Korean state media that “we have not received an official proposal in this regard.”
Speaking at a press conference before leaving Osaka on Saturday, however, Trump appeared to say his team had in fact been contacted by the North Koreans directly and that more formal preparations could be underway.
“We got a call very quickly … They’ve contacted us, said they’d like to see if they could do some- and we’re not talking extended, just a quick ‘hello,’” the President said.
A preliminary schedule for pool reporters on the trip with Trump said the U.S. President is expected to speak to troops at Osan Air Base in the late afternoon on Sunday before departing for Washington, meaning the window for a meeting at the DMZ may be short.
Trump said at the press conference that if he were to see Kim Jong Un, “we won’t call it a summit, we’ll call it a handshake, if it does happen.”
But with Trump bringing his negotiating team on North Korea to Seoul this weekend as well, it appears the U.S. is prepared for any format for the potential meeting with Kim.
These include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun.
President Moon’s role in any potential brief meeting is also unclear as of late Saturday, with South Korean presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung saying earlier in the day that their “original stance of hoping for dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. remains unchanged.”
The White House released a statement ahead of Trump’s visit to Seoul saying the visit is meant to “ reaffirm a vital partnership that is essential to our economic and security interests.”
Both leaders, it said, “have repeatedly called on Chairman Kim to follow through on his commitment to completely denuclearize,” and that they “want a prosperous and peaceful future for North Korea under Chairman Kim’s continued leadership.”