By Kavitha Shastry
President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a joint statement Tuesday that calls for North Korea "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. "
The two heads of state agreed to the statement after a meeting in Singapore, where Trump and Kim greeted each other with a handshake in front a wall of red, white, and blue flags representing both countries.
It was the first time a sitting U.S. president had met a North Korean leader. Their four-hour meeting included only translators to facilitate the conversation ー no advisors.
After the meeting, Trump told reporters that he was suspending U.S. military exercises with South Korea, and he was confident that Kim would live up to his commitment to dismantle North Korea's nuclear arsenal "very quickly."
Marc Lotter, a former aide to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, called the apparent agreement a "remarkable transformation" of relations between the two countries.
"I'll tell you, a little over a year ago, I was on Air Force Two with the Vice President, heading to Asia, when North Korea launched and tested a ballistic missile," Lotter said Tuesday in an interview with Cheddar's J.D. Durkin. "We were in the air at the time. And now to come a year later, 14 months, and see where we're standing, this is a remarkable transition, it's a remarkable transformation."
The joint statement, which Trump described as "very comprehensive," called for follow-up negotiations between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a North Korean official to begin "at the earliest possible date," but there was no specific timeline. The statement signed in Singapore sets the stage for what's expected to be a long negotiation.
Trump's comment to reporters after the summit meeting that the U.S. would cease military drills with South Korea seemed to be a significant concession not specified in the joint statement.
“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should,” Trump said. “But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus I think it’s very provocative.”
Trump also said that the process of denuclearization in North Korea would be a prolonged process. "Well, you know, scientifically, I've been watching and reading a lot about this, and it does take a long time, you know, to pull off complete denuclearization," he said.
Barbara Demick, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, said in an interview Monday with Cheddar, that the process could take 15 years. "I don't think the U.S. trusts North Korea at this stage," she said. "I know North Korea does not trust the United States. So it will have to be part of a process."
Already, the process of engagement between the U.S. and North Korea has taken a sharp turn from a year ago, when a series of missile tests by North Korea threatened to escalate hostilities, and Trump issued ultimatums to Kim on Twitter, calling him "Little Rocket Man."
After Tuesday's summit, Trump described the meeting as "fantastic," and said that Kim has accepted an invitation to the White House, "at an appropriate time".
When asked how the U.S. could ensure that North Korea would dismantle its nuclear weapons, he responded: “Can you ensure anything? You can’t ensure anything. I just feel very strongly -- my instincts, my ability, my talent -- that they want to make a deal.”
Trump also recounted an exchange he had with Kim in which he used his real estate background to convince the North Korean leader of the benefits of normalized relations.
“As an example, they have great beaches," Trump said. "You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’”
“You could have the best hotels in the world right there,” Trump said.
For full interview, click here.