SINGAPORE North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed Tuesday "to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" during a historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, who then unexpectedly said he was suspending military drills with South Korea.
Kim's commitment to denuclearize was included in a document signed after the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
It calls for the two countries to jointly work on efforts to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, to establish new U.S.-North Korea relations and to recover the remains of prisoners of war and military members missing in action. The two sides promised to hold follow-up negotiations.
'Denuke North Korea'
While the document didn't lay out a specifics regarding denuclearization, Trump said at a news conference "We're starting that process very quickly. Very, very quickly, absolutely."
"We're going to denuke North Korea," Trump also told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren, adding that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will remain in place, but announcing one concession long-sought by North Korea not included in the document signed earlier in the day.
"We are going to get out of the war games that cost so much money," he said, referring to the U.S. participation in joint military exercises with South Korea. At his news conference, Trump said the war games were expensive, provocative and inappropriate.
Later, a Pentagon spokesman said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was "not surprised" by Trump's concession ending the war games and had been consulted, including discussions with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"We welcome the outcomes," the defense spokesman said. "We support them."
Trump struck an optimistic tone about his talks with Kim. "My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time."
Sanctions will stay � for now
The U.S. leader stressed that existing U.S. sanctions will remain in place until North Korean nuclear weapons "are no longer a factor."
As for verification, Trump said he and Kim discussed the issue and that monitoring denuclearization efforts would be achieved "by having a lot of people there." He also predicted Kim would begin work right away to "live up to" the agreement.
Former U.S. ambassador Bill Richardson told VOA he is concerned about no verification of what the North Koreans will do about missile technology in the DPRK, no detail of nuclear reduction, the peace treaty and human rights.
On human rights, Trump said Tuesday's meetings only very briefly touched on the topic, but that the two sides would discuss it more in the future. When asked about thousands of people imprisoned in labor camps, Trump said he thinks he has helped them because things in North Korea will change.
"I think they are one of the great winners today," he said.
He cited American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in 2016 and died a year ago after being repatriated to the United States with severe brain damage.
"Otto did not die in vain, he had a lot to do with us being here today," Trump said.
Hours earlier as he sat alongside Kim at the signing ceremony, Trump said the two leaders "have developed a special bond" and that after their several hours of talks Tuesday and the signing of the agreement he thinks the U.S. relationship with North Korea "will be very different than in the past."
Trump said he would "absolutely" invite Kim to visit the White House and is open to visiting Pyongyang, as well.
"Today, we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind," Kim said, speaking through a translator. "The world will see a major change."
At one point, Kim told Trump that many people around the world would see their meeting as a kind of fantasy, as if it the event was a "science fiction movie."
They first met Tuesday for about 40 minutes alone, except for their translators, before bringing in delegations from their respective sides for a working lunch. They walked outside together after the lunch, stopping briefly to look at the U.S. president's special limousine.
Source: Voice of America