There will time and to spare to ponder what this means and where it may lead. For the time being, it is sufficient to record the moment.
On Friday, in a seemingly impromptu move, Trump tweeted an invitation to Kim Jong Un to meet him at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) during Trump’s visit to South Korea on the way home from the G-20 summit in Japan.
After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019
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The administration disclosed nothing about plans for the meeting, and speculation ran the gamut from skeptical to overwrought. Here at LU, we contented ourselves with suggesting the likelihood of the meeting coming off was slightly more than zero.
It did happen about 2:45 AM U.S. Eastern time, however (3:45 PM on the Korean Peninsula). Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In had concluded bilateral discussions in Seoul, and proceeded together to the DMZ, where Trump was to address U.S. troops. South Korean media were reporting at that point that the Trump-Kim meeting was indeed scheduled, citing sources in the Moon government.
Kim Jong Un’s security guards showed up, heralding Kim’s arrival. Then Kim himself showed, and he and Trump met at the demarcation line. Trump stepped across it and the two shook hands for an extended photo op.
— Fadhel Alyunis Post (@fapost) June 30, 2019
Now they are closeted for what will reportedly be a brief tête-à-tête.
Kim Jong Un & President Trump meeting privately now, 4 months after Trump walked away from Hanoi talks over how much #NorthKorea should denuclearize in exchange for lifting of UN #sanctions. pic.twitter.com/r4HRCTy47O
— Jean H. Lee (@newsjean) June 30, 2019
You have to keep terrible hours to be a witness to history these days.
It would be interesting to know what kind of heads-up Xi Xinping was given on this (other than the 28 June tweet by Trump). As a close ally and defense treaty partner, I assume Japan’s Shinzo Abe, the G-20 host, was kept informed.
Worth noting that the armistice establishing the DMZ was signed on 27 July 1953, 65 years and 11 months ago. Technically, the two Koreas have been in a state of suspended war — an armed truce — ever since.
All of that is for later. It’s not surprising that much of the social media commentary is either peevish and irritable (assuming Trump is a buffoon who doesn’t know what he’s doing) or hagiographic (assuming Trump is ascending into Olympus before our eyes). Such is the time we live in. For now, my sense is that the Trump phenomenon, whatever its origins, has blown an irreparable hole in the epistemic blast door that seemed to be sealed securely shut only three years ago. We of the post-modern “empirical” era don’t know what we think we know, nearly as certainly as we think we know it.