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Why Kim leaves Singapore with real achievements

President Trump and Kim Jong Un held a whirlwind summit in Singapore and set lofty goals, but provided few details on how to achieve them. From Singapore, Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff to outline the agreement and discuss whether each side got what they wanted.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un are now long gone from Singapore, after a whirlwind summit that set lofty goals, but provided few specifics on how to achieve them.

    Late this afternoon, early in Pyongyang, a North Korean news agency issued statements from leader Kim.

    He said the summit had produced a, “radical switch” in the relationship, and he called for practical measures to follow through on issues at an early date.

    From Singapore, foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin again begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    For decades, the leader of one of the world’s most isolated and repressive regimes has wanted this handshake, and with the U.S. and North Korean flags side by side, President Trump greeted Kim Jong Un with the trappings of pomp and prestige, and started a process he predicted would end decades of atomic antagonism.

    Just five months ago, the two men taunted each other by touting the sizes of their nuclear arsenals. Today, they spent five hours together, and President Trump predicted this was the start of a beautiful friendship.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It’s my honor. And we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.

  • Kim Jong Un (through translator):

    We overcame all kinds of skepticism and speculations about this summit. And I believe this is a good prelude for peace.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After an expanded bilateral meeting of the two sides’ senior aides.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Getting a good picture everybody, so we look nice and handsome and thin?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And a working lunch of short rib crispy pork and braised cod.

  • President Donald Trump:

    OK.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The two signed a joint statement that President Trump and Kim Jong Un said would transform their relationship.

  • Kim Jong Un (through translator):

    Today, we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In a statement, the U.S. pledges security guarantees to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK. And Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    The document is more of an outline than a road map. Both sides pledge, without specifics, to establish new relations, seek peace on the peninsula, work toward complete denuclearization, and recover POW-MIA remains from the Korean War.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The past doesn’t have to define the future. Yesterday’s conflict doesn’t have to be tomorrow’s war.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    For months, the administration said it would demand the North Korean nuclear program dismantle completely, verifiably and irreversibly, but today’s agreement doesn’t require North Korea to do anything specific.

    And for the first time, President Trump admitted instant denuclearization was impossible.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization. It takes a long time.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But what President Trump wants quickly, the end of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. For decades, the military has described these drills as defensive and symbols of support for South Korea, but President Trump called them inappropriate and expensive war games.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We fly in bombers from Guam, 6.5 hours. That’s a long time for these big, massive planes to be flying to South Korea to practice and then drop bombs all over the place and then go back to Guam. I know a lot about airplanes. It’s very expensive. And I think it’s very provocative.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After Mr. Trump spoke, the South Korean military appeared to be surprised, releasing a statement that read in part: “We need to find out the exact meaning or intention behind his comments at this point.”

    But South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose diplomacy helped create the summit, was supportive, said his spokesman.

  • Kim Eui-Kyeom (through translator):

    I congratulate and welcome the success of the historic North Korea-U.S. summit with a burning heart.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump described how he one day wanted to lift sanctions on longtime adversary North Korea, and he envisioned an optimistic future for North Korea’s tiny economy.

  • President Donald Trump:

    As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, boy, look at that. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind — and explained. I said, you know, instead of doing, you could have the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real estate perspective.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump’s positivity comes despite North Korea’s long and brutal human rights record. North Korea is accused of starving its own people and creating widespread malnourishment.

    Kim is accused of killing his own uncle to consolidate power. But President Trump, who is more than twice Kim’s age, suggested his rapport with the dictator could overcome decades of mistrust.

  • President Donald Trump:

    He is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough — I don’t say he was nice, or I don’t say anything about it. He ran it. Very few people at that age — you can take one out of 10,000 probably couldn’t do it.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Kim has never been exposed to this kind of environment as North Korea’s leader.

    And at one point during the summit, he said it felt so foreign, it was like a science fiction movie. But, Judy, the fact is, he leaves with very real achievements, not only the prestige of a meeting with the president of the United States, but also the president’s announcement that major military exercises would freeze.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Nick, what about the joint agreement? Is it fair to say the North Koreans got what they wanted out of that as well?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, that’s certainly what the analysts that we are talking to are telling us, that the North Koreans did get what they want.

    And this is critical, because this is about what happens next. So when Kim left North Korea, the press releases that came out of the North Korean media said that the priorities were in this order, one, improve relations with the U.S., two, gain peace on the peninsula, and three, and only three, denuclearization.

    That’s the exact order from the joint statement, improve relations, peace on the peninsula, and denuclearization. And that’s a flip from what the U.S. is usually willing to do. The U.S. usually says, denuclearize first, and then we can talk about the other things.

    And so by allowing that flip, the U.S. effectively is accepting the North Korean narrative that, in order to achieve denuclearization, these other things need to happen at the same time or even before, and that’s the question. Will North Korea insist that relations need to improve, that there needs to be peace on the peninsula before denuclearization?

    Or can all of this happen in parallel, which, of course, is what the U.S. wants? And that will be difficult, Judy, given that this agreement has not a single shred of enforcement that’s part of it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of that, Nick, there has been some criticism of President Trump, of the U.S. side for not getting enough out of the agreement. And President Trump was just tweeting about that.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, he sent a tweet just before we went on the air tonight, and also answered practically a dozen questions from all of us today about this.

    And he defended himself. He said, look, all of you people who are writing that I gave up too much, that’s wrong. And he listed his achievements, in his words, one, hostages that were released a few weeks ago are now in the U.S.

    Two, the remains of what he calls great hero, the POW-MIAs, are going to be coming home. Three, a missile freeze, a nuclear test freeze. We haven’t seen the tests that we saw last year. And, number four, the beginning of a relationship.

    And that was really the goal at the end of the day, with lower expectations, to achieve this relationship and start a process for the U.S.

    The flip of that, of course, is that the North Koreans achieved not only the prestige of meeting with the president, not only this freeze of major military exercises, but also we’re seeing the erosion of the sanctions campaign, the erosion of the pressure on North Korea, on the Chinese-North Korean border, on the Russian-North Korean border.

    The pressure that the Trump administration helped build is beginning to ease, and that is another achievement that North Korea gains from this summit.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, Nick, quickly, on another note, we have seen, we were talking about a lot of pageantry at this summit, and you were just telling us that extended to President Trump’s final news conference.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, we walked in and we saw it on these TV screens this video, highly produced, with a narration.

    And it basically offered Kim a choice, shake the hand of peace or slide back into more isolation. And the president said that he presented this video on an iPad to the North Korean delegation to try and convince him to sign the joint agreement.

    This is obviously slightly unusual diplomacy. And the question is whether this unusual diplomacy works. And the president does like surprises. He also announced that the North Koreans promised to eliminate a missile engine testing site. And it just shows, Judy, that the style of surprise is part of the substance of how the president negotiates.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nick Schifrin reporting for us from Singapore, thank you, nick.

    Here in Washington, reaction to the summit so far is decidedly mixed.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer charged today it may have been, “purely a reality show summit.”

    Fellow Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts said it’s the weakest agreement that North Korea has ever signed.

    And Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Kim Jong Un is the clear winner.

  • Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.:

    We had a lot of sizzle here, but not a lot of steak. Kim Jong Un had a good summit. At the end of the day, he went from international pariah, scorned by the world with multilateral sanctions, including those at the United Nations, to being seen as an equal, meeting with the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, on an equal footing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For their part, Senate Republicans said Mr. Trump sounded upbeat in a phone call to their weekly luncheon, but they also counseled caution.

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the summit, “a major first step, but not decisive.” House Speaker Paul Ryan pressed for a verifiable end to North Korea’s nuclear program, as did South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    The statement issued is a statement in principle. They will give up their nuclear weapons program. In return, we will guarantee their security and provide economic prosperity in North Korea. That’s a good deal for everybody.

    We’re a long ways from there. But I appreciate the fact that the president was willing to sit down, and we will see what happens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will talk to leading senators from both parties right after the news summary.

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