News Brief: Trump-Kim Weekend Meeting, Hong Kong Protests
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Former U.S. presidents have visited North Korea. President Trump is the first to do so while in office.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Stepping across that line was a great honor. A lot of progress has been made.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
So both of those statements about the honor and the progress call for some clarification. As for the honor, the president was enhancing his personal relationship with an autocratic ruler. And as for the progress, the president is hoping that relationship will lead to a nuclear agreement later, although previous talks have fallen apart.
INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley covers the president, has for quite some time. Hey there, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Did this meeting with Kim Jong Un really come about in a day, which is the way that the president presented it on Twitter?
HORSLEY: You know, Steve, the Gettysburg Address was not actually composed on the back of an envelope...
HORSLEY: ...And there was certainly speculation that Trump would visit the DMZ while he was in South Korea. He had tried to go a couple of years ago and couldn't get there because of bad weather. And then on Saturday morning, the president tweeted that, hey, if Kim was around and he'd like to get together while Trump was at the DMZ, you know, Trump would be up for a handshake and a hello.
The White House tried to portray this as completely impromptu. Trump told reporters he just had the idea that morning. That's probably an exaggeration, maybe to reduce the risk if Kim, for some reason, didn't show up. We do know that Trump talked about the idea of meeting Kim at the DMZ in an interview with The Hill newspaper a week ago. But the White House asked the paper not to publicize it, citing security concerns.
That said, this does seem to have come together rather quickly. I can tell you there was a row of flags behind Trump and Kim when they met in Freedom House, and it appears that the American flags were actually ferried in on the helicopter that was used to bring reporters to the site.
INSKEEP: OK. So Freedom House, that's right on the demilitarized zone, right? That's what you're...
HORSLEY: On the southern side, that's right.
INSKEEP: OK. And so they're in this building. They sit for an hour, and they talk for an hour. Do you have a good sense of what they discussed?
HORSLEY: We don't know a lot about what was discussed. It certainly did go a lot longer than the president had initially advertised. He had said to expect just a quick handshake and maybe a two-minute chat. And as you say, they were there for nearly an hour. The president did tell reporters after the meeting that he and Kim had agreed to restart talks about denuclearization. They will appoint teams to do that, he said, in the next few weeks.
Now, of course they've had teams talking about denuclearization before, and they've been unable to bridge the fundamental differences over, you know, what that term actually means to the two sides and what the sequencing ought to be. The president did say, for now, U.S. sanctions on North Korea would remain in place - no quick relief on that front. But he did leave over the possibility - leave open the possibility that sanctions could be relaxed in the future as the talks progressed.
INSKEEP: And the president also invited Kim Jong Un to drop by the White House if he was in the neighborhood.
HORSLEY: This wasn't something that the president volunteered. He was asked by reporters if he'd be open to extending such an invitation, and he very quickly said sure. I think, for Trump, a White House visit is kind of like stepping over that raised barrier between North and South Korea. He likes the pageantry of the bold gesture, and he's not particularly burdened by a lot of second-guessing over whether this is the right time or what's the protocol. That said, Trump did tell reporters he is in no hurry to play host to Kim Jong Un.
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TRUMP: There's a good feeling, so it could be very good. As far as another meeting, I think let's see what happens today before we start thinking about that.
HORSLEY: Trump said we're not looking for speed; we're looking to get it right, no matter how quickly this little photo-op over the weekend was put together.
INSKEEP: Scott, thanks so much.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: And when you talk about looking to get it right, there are all the details of a nuclear negotiation - essentially, all of them. So let's discuss that with NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
Hey. Good morning.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: And one reason it's good to talk with you is that you covered the summit in Vietnam that fell apart with no agreement whatsoever - in fact, ended early. So after this dramatic meeting this weekend, what remains to be done?
RASCOE: Well, you know, the big thing - I've been talking to analysts about this - and what they all agree is that there has to be some movement with these lower-level negotiators, with these teams that they're setting up. President Trump has made clear that he has the final say-so. And he likes to focus on these personal relationships between leaders. But negotiations have to be able to move forward not just when Kim and Trump talk face-to-face because there are all these issues that need to be ironed out and both sides need to get on the same page.
So that's what's going to be key moving forward. Are there actual working-level talks, and are they consistent? And is there movement beyond kind of the letters and the nice words? Is the U.S. going to be willing to offer anything on sanctions relief to North Korea for actions short of full denuclearization? And then what is North Korea willing to offer? At Hanoi, it offered up the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and Trump said that wasn't enough.
INSKEEP: And you're pointing at the essential difficulty that negotiators have faced all along. The United States wants all sanctions to remain in place until North Korea has fully denuclearized. The North Koreans want some benefits along the way to even move in that direction, and there's a lot of skepticism about whether they ever would be willing to denuclearize. So you've got some fundamental issues that we don't have answers to.
But Ayesha, I want to ask about something else while I have you. Even though there was no agreement with North Korea, there was a meeting over the past week with Chinese leaders. So was there any progress in the trade war with China?
RASCOE: Well - so the U.S. and China agreed to kind of restart trade talks. And the Trump administration agreed to hold off on imposing new tariffs. So it was kind of like a truce and a restarting of talks. And China agreed to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products, which is very important to Trump. He's always talking about U.S. farmers and how important they are to him.
INSKEEP: OK. So there's not actually a trade agreement there but an agreement to keep talking. And some things will change. And the president also made a move regarding Huawei, the tech giant that the U.S. has described as a security threat.
RASCOE: Yeah. So U.S. tech companies will be able to keep supplying components to Huawei. And so that is something that President Trump was willing to put on the table.
INSKEEP: Is there anything in common when you look at his approach to North Korea and the president's approach to China?
RASCOE: You know, both of these are issues that have been going on for a long time. They have frustrated and vexed many presidents before Trump, and Trump has promised to fix these situations. He is trying things that other presidents have not. He's kind of making these bold moves, whether it's tariffs with China or making kind of bombastic threats against North Korea followed by these historic meetings with North Korea's Kim. And so there's pageantry and headlines and big dramatic moments.
But ultimately, it's an open question, how much progress is actually being made. Right now you kind of have the status quo holding with both situations. And how the administration gets from this point where they're at right now to kind of game-changing deals, that's what's really unknown.
INSKEEP: Ayesha, thanks so much.
RASCOE: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe.
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INSKEEP: Today is a holiday in Hong Kong, marking 22 years since the end of British colonial rule and the restoration of control by China.
MARTIN: The date brings a lot of mixed feelings in Hong Kong. At the time of the handover, residents were assured of maintaining the relative freedoms they enjoyed under British rule. Today they protested again to maintain those freedoms.
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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Foreign language spoken).
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).
MARTIN: That's the sound of these clashes between protesters who were crowded in the streets and police. Today's events continue - demonstrations against a bill that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China.
INSKEEP: NPR's Julie McCarthy is in Hong Kong covering today's demonstrations.
Hi there, Julie.
JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: Can you give us proper perspective on these protests? The TV images look pretty dramatic. There are images of people trying to smash into Hong Kong's legislature by crashing a cart against glass walls. But how do these protests compare to others in recent weeks and months?
MCCARTHY: Well, the others in recent weeks involved millions of people. We don't know what the numbers are yet here. But events are evolving and quickly. At the moment, protesters right outside my window have gathered near that very Legislative Council. And they were throwing what our producer says were eggs at the police, who were just standing by. Protesters reportedly, as you said, smashed a glass door there and are now shouting very loudly.
Up the street was a whole different issue, a whole different scene. All age groups were assembling in a peaceful - very large numbers. Some of them may be joining those below.
INSKEEP: Now, that is a notable detail, that the police are just standing by. That's something that calls for discipline - to be egged in that situation, I guess, and do relatively little in response. Does it seem, then, the police have been restrained today?
MCCARTHY: Well, earlier in the morning, they weren't. They were using pepper spray and batons. But right now, they do seem to be standing by. They've been accused of using excessive force. But they've also taken great pains, you know? There's very tight security, and there's huge cordons around. For example, the highly symbolic flag-raising ceremony went off without a hitch. Earlier this morning, the Chinese and Hong Kong flags were hoisted side-by-side, a display that underscores that Hong Kong is squarely part of China.
INSKEEP: And let's remember what this is about. Mainland China has sovereignty over Hong Kong but has assured, for half a century, certain rights to people in Hong Kong. There were protests against this extradition bill, which has been suspended - has been delayed without being voted on and passed. What do the protesters want now?
MCCARTHY: Well, what they want is that thing not suspended but completely withdrawn. They have very little faith in the word of their governors that they think it's - and they think it's far from dead. So there is a suspended animation about this extradition bill. And I kind of watched that very thing today. The Hong Kong rulers took their place inside this cavernous hall. They were watching the flag-raising from a safe distance. They clinked champagne glasses after Chief Executive Carrie Lam told them that the one country, two system arrangement - meaning China's one party and Hong Kong's quasi-democracy - was succeeding.
Now, the fact that there are so many people on the streets attests to a vibrant free speech in Hong Kong. But they are out there marching because they think they are losing those freedoms.
INSKEEP: Julie, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Julie McCarthy reporting from Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.