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Kim called within ten minutes of tweet: Trump

Aug 17,2019
U.S. President Donald Trump may have just revealed the existence of a possible hotline with Pyongyang after he bragged Thursday of receiving a call from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “within 10 minutes” after proposing a meeting at the demilitarized zone on Twitter last June.

In an interview with the New Hampshire radio station WGIR, Trump credited his social media activity while on a state visit to Northeast Asia for making possible his snap meeting with Kim at Panmunjom on June 30.

“I put out a tweet: Hey, I’m going to South Korea. If you want to meet for a couple of minutes, let’s meet. And I put it out and he was calling within 10 minutes,” Trump said.

On June 29, while in Osaka, Japan, for the Group of 20 (G-20) summit, Trump released a tweet that appeared to defy all precedents of presidential protocol in arranging high profile meets.

“If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” the message read.

The next day, with Trump now in Korea, Kim arrived at the DMZ for a meeting that broke through a long-standing stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang over the latter’s nuclear program.

“I mean, it’s the craziest thing,” the president recalled on the radio show. “So it’s an incredible - And we had a good meeting. It’s an incredible way to communicate for me.”

After talking privately for around an hour, Trump and Kim agreed to resume working-level discussions within weeks over the North’s denuclearization - talks which have yet to begin due to Pyongyang’s protests over the United States’ joint military drills with South Korea.

While the president had made it sufficiently clear before that it was his personal outreach that enabled the Panmunjom meeting to go ahead, this is the first time he has mentioned how North Korea responded to his proposal.

It is unclear what Trump was referring to when he said Kim had called, but it could be a possible direct hotline that Trump actually mentioned after their first summit in Singapore in June last year.

Saying he gave Kim “a very direct number,” he told Fox News on June 15, 2018, that Kim could call him if “he has any difficulties.”

“We have communication, it’s a very good thing,” Trump said, adding he would personally call Kim later on.

Yet Trump’s remarks on Thursday may have also been in reference to active unofficial communication channels between Washington and Pyongyang, such as through their missions at the United Nations.

Testifying to such ongoing contact are the words of a South Korean diplomatic source who told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday that the personal letter Trump said he received from Kim last week was hand delivered at a secret meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials at Panmunjom.

The meeting is also believed to have followed another one in which Allison Hooker, a White House National Security Council official specializing in Korean affairs, reportedly exchanged photos of the June 30 Trump-Kim gathering at Panmunjom with North Korean officials.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]