President Trump became the first sitting American commander in chief to set foot in North Korea on Sunday as he greeted Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula for more than six decades.
Met in the middle by a beaming Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump stepped across a low concrete marker at 3:46 p.m. local time and walked 20 steps to the base of a building on the North Korean side for an encounter carried live on international television an unprecedented, camera-friendly demonstration of friendship intended to revitalize stalled nuclear talks.
It is good to see you again, a seemingly exuberant Mr. Kim told the president through an interpreter. I never expected to meet you in this place.
Big moment, big moment, Mr. Trump told him.
After about a minute on officially hostile territory, Mr. Trump escorted Mr. Kim back over the line into South Korea, where the two briefly addressed a scrum of journalists before slipping inside the building known as Freedom House for a private conversation. Mr. Trump said he would invite Mr. Kim to visit him at the White House.
This has a lot of significance because it means that we want to bring an end to the unpleasant past and try to create a new future, so it’s a very courageous and determined act, Mr. Kim told reporters.
“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Mr. Trump replied. A lot of progress has been made, a lot of friendships have been made and this has been in particular a great friendship.
A showman by nature and past profession, Mr. Trump delighted in the drama of the moment. Never before had American and North Korean leaders gotten together at the line bristling with concertina wire and weapons, where heavily armed forces have faced off across a tense divide for 66 years since the end of fighting in the Korean War.
The encounter in Panmunjom was cast as a brief greeting, not a formal negotiation, but the two ended up together for at least an hour. It was not clear if it would do anything concrete to bridge the enormous gap between the two sides over the fate of North Korea’s nuclear program.
But Mr. Trump gambled that the show of amity could crack the logjam and open the way to further talks, underscoring his faith in the power of his own personal diplomacy to achieve what has eluded presidents in the past.
More than halfway through his term, Mr. Trump is eager for a resolution to the longstanding nuclear dispute, seeing it as a signature element of the legacy he hopes to forge.
Mr. Kim accepted Mr. Trump’s unorthodox invitation, posted on Twitter just a day earlier, and both sides scrambled over the past 24 hours to manage the logistics and security required for such a get-together.
Mr. Trump was already scheduled to make an unannounced visit to the DMZ during his trip to South Korea, and while he portrayed the idea of meeting with Mr. Kim while there as a spontaneous one, he had actually been musing out loud about it for days in advance.
There are 35 million people in Seoul, 25 miles away, Mr. Trump said before Mr. Kim’s arrival, gazing into the distance as he was shown the line from the observation deck.
All accessible by what they already have in the mountains, he added, an apparent reference to the massive North Korean artillery firepower built up within range of Seoul over several decades. There’s nothing like that anywhere in terms of danger.
Panmunjom, which straddles the North-South border, is commonly known as the truce village because the American-led United Nations forces signed an armistice with North Korea and its Chinese backers in 1953 to halt the three-year Korean War.
Even in this symbolic moment of reconciliation, Mr. Trump seemed to dwell on his grievances about his media coverage, repeating complaints he has made several times over the last day that he has not received enough credit for de-escalating tensions on the peninsula.