Steve Herman – VOA News
SINGAPORE - In an agreement signed Tuesday in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while U.S. President Donald Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea.
The document also 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 also promised to hold follow-up negotiations.
“We’re going to denuke North Korea,” Trump told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren.
He also said neither side issued ultimatums and that the agreement Tuesday was the result of months of negotiations.
“You know that could have ended in a war, that could have ended with many millions of people — you know North Korea very well, Seoul has 28 million people, that could have ended with millions of people dead but we ended with a deal,” he said.
Trump also told VOA that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will remain in place, but announced one concession long-sought by North Korea.
"We are going to get out of the war games that cost so much money," he said.
Trump said at later news conference 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.
Asked if the talks included specifics on the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Trump said “what they have is substantial.”
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.
The U.S. president repeatedly struck a positive tone about Kim, thanking the North Korean leader for taking what he called a bold step and saying he “has the chance to seize an incredible future for his people.”
He also thanked the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea for their efforts in making Tuesday’s summit happen.
Hours earlier as he sat alongside Kim at the signing ceremony, Trump said the two leaders “have developed a special bond” and that after 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.”
Both Trump and Kim expressed gratitude toward each other for the meetings.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.”
Trump and Kim traveled to Singapore with a main agenda of discussing the possible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
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.
“We had a really fantastic meeting, a lot of progress, very positive,” Trump said.
The U.S. side included Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The North Korean participants included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho, and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Tuesday marked the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Dozens of cameras snapped photos as the two men first came together in front of a background of U.S. and North Korean flags.
One the eve of the talks, American officials maintained any resulting agreement must lead to an end of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile threats.
“The ultimate objective we seek from diplomacy with North Korea has not changed the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) of the Korea Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept,” Pompeo declared Monday.
The language in Tuesday’s agreement was not as strong as the CVID standard Pompeo set out. But the secretary of state still seemed positive about the outcome.
“It’s a great day,” Pompeo told VOA.
About 5,000 journalists are in Singapore for the occasion, but only a handful of American and North Korean reporters and photographers were permitted at the venue when the two leaders greet each other.
VOA's Bill Gallo contributed to this report.