At a highly-anticipated summit on June 12, President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un signed a joint-statement making commitments “to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
The meeting on Singapore’s Sentosa Island was the first time that an American president met with a North Korean leader.
South Korean Archbishop Kim Hee-Jung of Gwangju called the outcome of the summit “a surprise and a joy,” in a June 12 statement.
Peaceful negotiation is an ongoing process, the archbishop said, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes:
“Peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly.”
The South Korean bishops have called for Catholics to pray a novena for North Korea from June 17 - 25 with specific prayer intentions for each day. This includes prayers for the North Korean people, separated families, North Korean refugees, evangelization of the North, and the peaceful reunification of the peninsula.
Trump faced several questions in the press conference following the summit about whether he had addressed North Korea’s human rights abuses in his private discussion with Kim Jong Un. The question of whether to prioritize peace negotiations, security, or human rights concerns has been a frequent point of contention among North Korea experts.
Trump replied that human rights were “discussed relatively briefly compared to denuclearization.” However, he also said that North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens, and the regime’s persecution of Christians were brought up in his conversation with Kim. The roughly 45 minute conversation was unrecorded and through an interpreter.
“Christians, yes. We … brought it up very strongly. You know, Franklin Graham spent and spends a tremendous amount of time in North Korea. He’s got it very close to his heart. It did come up, and things will be happening,” said Trump. Franklin Graham is the son of the late American evangelist Billy Graham and the CEO of the Samaritan’s Purse organization.
After a one-on-one meeting with Kim Jong Un, Trump participated in an expanded bilateral meeting, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Ambassador Sung Kim, and National Security Council Senior Director for Asia Matt Pottinger joined after for a working lunch.
The outcome of these meetings was a joint-statement signed by both leaders with four specific parts to the agreement.
First, both the U.S. and North Korea agreed to “establish new U.S.-DPRK relations.”
Trump said that he sees himself meeting with Kim again in the future, and told the press, “I also will be inviting Chairman Kim, at the appropriate time, to the White House.”
Second, “the United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
In part, this seems to include the end of U.S. military exercises with North Korea, which Trump called “war games.” It does not mean a reduction in military capabilities, he clarified.
Third, Kim Jung Un committed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” a reaffirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration, the statement he signed with South Korean President Moon Jae-In on April 27.
As with the Panmunjom Declaration, many scholars critiqued this June 12 joint-statement for lacking concrete details and a timeline to ensure the complete implementation and verification of denuclearization.
Lastly, the two leaders committed to “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
This relatively unexpected outcome came as the result of “countless calls and letters and tweets” the president said he received from Americans that wanted “the remains of their sons back.” To his suggestion that the remains be repatriated, Trump said that Kim Jung Un replied, “It makes sense. We will do it.”
The American president seemed confident that the North Korean leader will keep his promises.
“We signed a very, very comprehensive document, and I believe he’s going to live up to that document,” said Trump.
Trump also said that Kim had a “great personality and very smart -- good combination.”
Trump attempted to help Kim envision a brighter economic future for North Korea through a short video, which he said he showed the North Korean leader on an iPad toward the end of their meeting.
“The past doesn’t have to be the future. Out of the darkness can come the light, and the light of hope can burn bright,” said a voice in the video over images of the planet, prosperous urban cities, and photos of Trump and Kim.
Trump also claims to have attempted to persuade Kim to see his situation “from a real estate perspective.”
North Korea has “great beaches” said Trump, who continued “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at the view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?’ And I explained, I said, ‘You know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.’”
President Trump said that he already has plans to meet next week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and his “entire team” to begin implementing the negotiated terms.
“The biggest challenge will be developing a robust verification and inspection regime — an endeavor that will test the resilience of the fledgling U.S.-North Korea working partnership,” said John Park, the director of Harvard’s Korea Working Group, in a statement released by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“A key obstacle ahead will be some actors’ use of the “Sentosa Statement” as a justification to further ease implementation of sanctions without linkage to denuclearization actions to maximize narrow national interests,” Park continued.
In the press conference, Trump said that he would not consider removing the current sanctions on North Korea until “we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor” and there is “significant improvement” in the human rights situation.
“You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment,” Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican News June 12.
“It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good,” he said.
South Korea’s novena will end June 25, South Korea’s memorial day, and an annual day of prayer in South Korea for reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The day will likely be celebrated with particular urgency this year.
“Since 1965, the Korean Catholic Church has been praying for the true peace of the two Koreas and the reconciliation of the nation on June 25 every year,” wrote Archbishop Kim following April's Inter-Korean summit.
In recent months, the country’s bishops have also called for daily rosaries for peace each day at 9pm in South Korea, which are expected to continue after today’s meeting.