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President Trump took a history-making step onto North Korean territory on Sunday and announced talks to end the country’s nuclear program will resume. Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to cross the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South, but was it a move toward denuclearization or a public relations stunt? The Washington Post's Simon Denyer joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.
More on the events today at the DMZ and what might be next for North and South Korea and for the United States. The Washington Post Japan and Korea bureau chief Simon Denyer joins us now via Skype from Seoul. Thanks for joining us. So look the president's critics have pointed out that you know he has a history of understanding reality TV and drama. How was this perceived besides a photo op on the ground there?
Well you know Harry it was a historic moment. The president crossed into North Korea. He met the North Korean leader. First time that's happened since the Korean War the first time this ever happened actually. But it was as you say a beautiful piece of carefully constructed reality television. We were supposed to believe that this had all been organized in 24 hours with a tweet from the president. We spent 24 hours with the president building it up minute by minute almost sort of saying all through the day are they trying to make arrangements they're trying to make arrangements really leading us to believe that this was going to be a surprising dramatic final thing. I don't think many people really bought that line. Everybody really was watching expected that this had been organized some time in advance. Two leaders from two powerful countries don't tend to organize meetings on the basis of a tweet that's not noticed. So yeah it was it was reality TV at its best.
More substantively what is the position that this puts say Japan and South Korea in? Because North Korea hasn't stopped testing its short range missiles which could harm them.
Right. I mean from the South Korean point of view from President Moon's point of view it's a good thing that America and North Korea are talking because it's a better thing that they're talking than they're about to declare war on each other. Because for South Korea that would be the ultimate disaster for Japan. It is a different calculation. I think the Japanese have always been very wary of North Korea's nuclear weapons. They've been very wary of the missile threat. They're very concerned that a deal will be struck which will legitimize a nuclear weapons state right on their doorstep with missiles which is extremely hostile to it. So the Japanese are watching this with a great deal awareness and a great deal of concern. And I think what you've seen now is President Trump used to talk about denuclearization but in the last 24 hours he barely mentioned denuclearization. He just kept saying the border is safer than it used to be before. So we've really moving the goalposts here and I think that will be a concern for Japan.
You know in that part of the world face-saving credibility, legitimacy are culturally far more important and they are perhaps in the United States. What does this do to the standing of the North Korean leader in the context of the leadership that's in the region?
Well it's a very good question. I think that the collapse of the Hanoi summit had actually been a blow but Kim Jong Un's domestic prestige is his prestige within North Korea. I actually have been very embarrassing for him and I think that after that you seem to break a return to certain amount of hostility from North Korea because Kim Jong Un had to save face from that point of view giving him an opportunity to sort of get back with Trump and start the dialogue process probably isn't a bad thing. It's probably better as I say that North Korea and the United States are talking than North Korea is testing mystic missiles. [
Well it's a very good question. I think that the collapse of the Hanoi summit had actually been a blow but Kim Jong Un's domestic prestige is his prestige within North Korea. I actually have been very embarrassing for him and I think that after that you seem to break a return to certain amount of hostility from North Korea because Kim Jong Un had to save face from that point of view giving him an opportunity to sort of get back with Trump and start the dialogue process probably isn't a bad thing. It's probably better as I say that North Korea and the United States are talking than North Korea is testing mystic missiles.
The problem is is North Korea going to surrender its nuclear weapons. Does Kim have any intention of doing that. And I think you know that's the big doubt it is is President Trump legitimizing a nuclear weapons state in this neighborhood.
Is there any incentive to change their behavior when the United States seems willing to talk and is not asking for any behavior on the North Koreans part to change? I mean you're in contact with defectors have conditions inside North Korea improved in the time that this reproach man between countries exists.
North Korea is still building as far as we know as far as we can guess is still building up its nuclear arsenal its missile arsenal the human rights situation hasn't changed. Those are two things two solid indications things are not getting better. There is one thing which is better and that is they're not testing their missiles. They're not as hostile and as threatening. So it's one out of three if you like the President Trump has achieved but those other two indicators there is no progress.
Alright, Simon Denyer, the Japan and Korea bureau chief for The Washington Post, joining us via Skype. Thanks.
Pleasure. Thank you.
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