(CNN) — President Donald Trump announced that his third face-to-face encounter with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will occur along the Korean Demilitarized Zone on Sunday, a day after raising the prospect of a border handshake in a tweet and declaring he’d have “no problem” stepping into the hermit kingdom.
“I’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim. I look forward to it very much,” Trump said. “We’ve developed a very good relationship.”
He and Kim, Trump proclaimed, “understand each other.”
Earlier, South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who will accompany Trump to the heavily-guarded frontier — said “for the first time in history the leaders of the US and North Korea will be standing face to face in Panmunjom,” the border village in the DMZ.
The confirmation came after a morning of back-and-forth over whether the brief greeting would transpire after Trump on Saturday issued a public invitation for a handshake.
On Sunday morning, Trump framed the question of whether he’d actually meet Kim as a matter of logistics, indicating both sides were sorting arrangements to make the handshake happen.
“They’re trying to work it out. Not so easy,” Trump said, an indication the meeting’s chances depended largely on whether the two sides could make the arrangements in time.
Trump said when he does meet Kim, it will be brief — which is fine, he said.
“It will be very short,” he said. “Virtually a handshake. But that’s OK. A handshake means a lot.”
The prospect of a casual handshake between the US president and the North Korean leader along the world’s most heavily fortified border would once be unthinkable. Now, the idea seems entirely in keeping with Trump’s deeply personal style of diplomacy and his flair for orchestrating drama around those efforts.
Still, some diplomats even in Trump’s own administration were caught off guard when he tweeted the invitation Saturday while attending the final day of the G20 summit. Trump’s last meeting with Kim collapsed when the two sides could not agree on terms exchanging sanctions relief for relinquishing North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. And the two sides have made little progress since.
But Trump says he’s in no rush and claims to have already seen results — both enough, in his view, for another meeting.
“If you’re in a rush, you get yourself in trouble,” he said during a news conference with Moon before his DMZ visit on Sunday.
He did not cast the new encounter with Kim as a breakthrough. But he said it could provide momentum to something bigger.
“It’s just a step,” he said. “It might be an important step and it might not.”
It won’t be the first attempt Trump makes to get to the DMZ, the heavily guarded stretch that has divided the Korean Peninsula for three-quarters of a century. He was foiled by the weather last time around, in 2017. Always highly attuned to optics, Trump wasn’t likely to pass up the opportunity to stare into the North from the observation platform.
Other presidents have made the same journey — all peering into the hermit kingdom through binoculars — but none have actually met the despotic leaders who rule it.
Nor has any sitting US president stepped across into the North, something Trump would not rule out on Saturday.
“Sure I would,” Trump said. “I feel very comfortable doing that. I would have no problem.”