Singapore - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that ended in a joint agreement were "tremendous".

The signed document included a pledge from Mr Kim to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. But in an extraordinary media conference later, President Trump announced details not in the paper.

He said he would halt US military exercises in South Korea, something widely seen as a concession. Trump said he expected Mr Kim to move “very quickly” to dismantle his country’s nuclear arsenal.

The summit meeting was the first of its kind between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader, and it ended in a joint statement that opened the door to ending seven decades of hostility between the two countries.

Trump said at a news conference that the United States would stop “the war games,” in what appeared to be a concession to the North. He said the exercises were expensive and “very provocative,” though both the Pentagon and South Korean military were caught off guard by the announcement.

In a joint statement after the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting, the United States “committed to provide security guarantees” to the North. In exchange, Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” But Trump said economic sanctions against North Korea would remain in place.

The two leaders first met privately for less than an hour in a one-on-one session with interpreters present, before breaking off for a larger meeting and then a working lunch with aides.

The leaders signed their joint statement, in which the United States committed to providing guarantees of security to North Korea in exchange for denuclearisation. “We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said as he and Trump signed the joint statement, adding, “The world will see a major change.”

Trump was similarly optimistic about the progress they achieved, saying, “We are going to take care of a very big and very dangerous problem for the world.”

The joint statement was short on details and did not lay out potential next steps or a timetable. It was not immediately released to reporters, but was legible in a photo of Trump holding it up at the ceremony.

The statement said the two nations would hold “follow-on negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a high-level North Korean official “at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes” of the summit meeting.

The statement also said the two nations would “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the divided Korean Peninsula, meaning talks to reduce military tensions that could eventually lead to a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War.

Trump presented Kim with a short video depicting the prosperity that could come with peace. The video, which was shown to journalists before Trump’s news conference, was a hyperbolic movie-trailer-style montage of many, many images, both positive and dire.

Among them: airplanes, bridges, skyscrapers, smiling children, American armaments, missile launches, postwar devastation, high-speed trains, a basketball player dunking a ball and horses running through water.

“There comes a time when only a few are called upon to make a difference, but the question is: What difference will the few make?” intones a narrator in the English-language version of the video. “The past doesn’t have to be the future. Out of the darkness can come the light.”

American and South Korean officials were surprised by Trump’s plans to end “war games” on the Korean Peninsula. Lt. Col. Jennifer Lovett, a United States military spokeswoman in South Korea, said in an email that the American command there “has received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises — to include this fall’s schedule Ulchi Freedom Guardian.”

“We will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance from the Department of Defence,” she added.

Trump’s pronouncement raised fears that Washington was making concessions before North Korea had actually dismantled its nuclear weapons. The South Korean Defence Ministry issued a curt statement saying that it was trying to determine Trump’s intentions.

Despite the uncertainty, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea celebrated the meeting’s outcome, calling it “a historic event that has helped break down the last remaining Cold War legacy on earth.”

“I pay my high compliments for the courage and determination of the two leaders, President Trump and Chairman Kim, not to settle for that outdated and familiar reality but to take a daring step toward change,” Moon said.

At the end of their meeting, Kim pledged to destroy a missile-engine testing site, Trump told reporters, in what he characterized as a last-minute decision that was not included in the joint agreement.

READ MORE: Power of speech

“I got that after we signed the agreement,” Trump said of the concession. “I said, ‘Do me a favour; we’ve got this missile-engine testing site. We know where it is because of the heat.’ It’s incredible the equipment we have, to be honest with you.”

The joint statement signed by both leaders said their two countries were committed to recovering and repatriating the remains of soldiers who were designated captured or missing at the end of the conflict in 1953.

Of the 82,000 American service members still missing from the wars of the past century, 7,702 are from the Korean War, according to the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is responsible for recovering missing personnel from around the world.

An estimated 120,000 South Korean troops and police officers are also unaccounted for in the Korean War.

Trump, in his post-meeting news conference, said he had received “countless calls and letters” from family members asking him to discuss the issue with Kim, and that Kim had agreed to the request “so quickly.”

“The remains will be coming back,” Trump said. “They’re going to start that process immediately.”

China welcomed the news from Singapore and patted itself on the back. “I think nobody can doubt the extremely unique and important role China has played,” said Wang Yi, the foreign minister.

Wang may have been so pleased because of Trump’s decision to suspend military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

China floated that idea last year, suggesting that the North suspend its weapons programme in exchange for an end to American military exercises.

Chinese experts on North Korea, however, were underwhelmed by the summit meeting’s outcome. “Well below my expectation,” Cheng Xiaohe of Renmin University said of the joint statement. “Full of empty talk that has already been said before. So far Trump has failed to prove himself a dealmaker.”

 

 

Trump-Kim Summit ends with promises