Trump Steps Into North Korea

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Trump Steps Into North Korea

The president met North Korea's leader at the DMZ for a few steps into the country.

(CNN) -- President Donald Trump shook hands with Kim Jong Un on Sunday and took 20 steps into North Korea, making history as the first sitting US leader to set foot in the hermit kingdom.

Trump crossed the low stone curb separating the North and South at 3:45 p.m. local time, making his way alongside a grinning Kim into a country that's long been a global pariah for its nuclear ambitions and dismal record on human rights.

Afterward, Trump said he agreed with Kim to revive staff-level talks that had collapsed after their last summit in February.

The encounter at the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone -- their third in person -- came a day after Trump raised the prospect of a border handshake in a tweet and declared he'd have "no problem" stepping into North Korea.

"Would you like me to step across?" Trump asked Kim as they shook hands. "I am OK with it."

While inside North Korean territory, Trump and Kim shook hands and patted each other's backs before returning across the border to the South after about a minute.

"I never expected to meet you at this place," Kim, who appeared overjoyed in the moment, told Trump through an interpreter.

Later, Trump said he was "proud to step over the line" and thanked Kim for the meeting. He invited him to the White House, though later acknowledged such a visit would likely not come soon.

The North Korean leader said he was surprised by Trump's request to meet, and accepted the offer due to their "excellent relationship" and the significance of meeting at the border.

"I think meeting here, two countries that have a hostile past, we are showcasing to the world that we have a new present and we have a positive meeting going forward," he said.

After the historic handshake, the two men met inside the Freedom House at the DMZ for just under an hour -- a more substantial session than Trump previewed earlier when he said his encounter with Kim would amount to little more than a handshake.

The moment marks a milepost in the United States' fraught history with North Korea, but what it means beyond a display of friendship wasn't immediately clear.

The North Korean government praised Trump's "historic" meeting and handshake with Kim as an "amazing event" in the country's first acknowledgment of the talks at Panmunjom, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported Sunday.

Kim said that it was the "good personal relations with Trump that made such a dramatic meeting possible," according to KCNA.

The North Korean government went on to explain how the "bold" decision by Kim and Trump created "an unprecedented trust between the two countries which had been antagonizing each other with deep rooted hostility," KCNA reported.

There did not appear to be any new commitments made in Trump's 50-minute meeting with Kim beyond an agreement to restart talks. And Trump himself said afterward he was in no rush to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

Other presidents have gone to the DMZ -- without Kim.

Sunday was not the first attempt Trump made to get to the DMZ, the heavily guarded stretch that has divided the Korean Peninsula for three-quarters of a century. He was foiled by weather last time around, in 2017. Always highly attuned to optics, Trump wasn't likely to pass up the opportunity to stare into the North from the observation platform.

Other presidents have made the same journey -- all peering into the North through binoculars -- but none have actually met the despotic leaders who rule it.

Nor has any sitting US president stepped across into the North.

PHOTO: CNN Newsource

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