As hundreds of cameras flashed, two men stood in front of an elaborate display of American and North Korean flags and shook hands for the first time ever. These two individuals, one 34 years old and the other 72 years old, smiled at a sea of journalists as they continued shaking hands for twelve seconds. After a few more brief exchanges, the pair walked away with their interpreters to a private meeting, which the world never saw coming a few months earlier.
For the past several decades, the United States and North Korea have been in conflict with each other, and the tensions between these two countries trace back to the 1950’s during the Korean War. Then this past spring, about 70 years after the Korean War, rumors surfaced of a possible diplomatic meeting between these two nations. More and more speculations about a U.S.-North Korea summit surfaced until finally, after multiple setbacks, President Trump announced on May 25 that such a summit had been scheduled to take place. The day set for this meeting was June 12, and both countries planned to gather at a Singapore hotel.
In the days leading up to this unprecedented summit, multiple working meetings between U.S. and North Korean officials were held, but none of them achieved much success in gaining common ground. Thus, on Tuesday June 12, the whole world was watching as President Trump exchanged a handshake with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Shortly afterwards, the two left for their first one-on-one meeting and discussed North Korea’s nuclear program, among other things. The delegations from U.S. and North Korea then regrouped at a working lunch and deliberated on various aspects of nuclear disarmament and a de-escalation of tensions between these two nations.
Upon the conclusion of this meeting, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim signed a joint statement, which cited multiple points of agreement among the two parties involved. This signed document stated North Korea’s commitment “to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and Mr. Trump later described this document of agreement as “very important.” In addition, this statement declared that the U.S. and North Korea would participate in “follow-up negotiations” arranged by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a high-ranking North Korean official. The goal of these follow-up negotiations was to “implement the outcomes” of the June 12th summit meeting.
Within the next several weeks of this historic summit, different advances were made to try to urge North Korea to denuclearize, but significant and notable progress regarding this has not yet been accomplished. Despite this, one objective of the June 12th joint statement was fulfilled on July 27 when North Korea gave the U.S. 55 boxes which supposedly contain the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War. However, the returned remains and bodies have yet to be tested and identified. On another note, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a follow-up visit to North Korea on July 6 and plans to make another trip sometime soon to continue working on “relationship improvement” and the details of the nuclear disarmament process.
In the end, with Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim’s handshake and the events that followed, one can claim that history and progress was made between these two countries. However, the saga of U.S.-North Korea relations has yet to be continued and is far from over.