ADDS COMMENTS ON RETURN OF REMAINS IN GRAFS 22-25
By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted that North Korea's denuclearization process will start "very quickly" as the pair wrapped up an unprecedented meeting on Sentosa Island in Singapore.
The two leaders signed what was described as a "comprehensive" deal in front of international camera crews.
The American president was full of praise for his "very smart" North Korean counterpart, describing their "very special bond" and a total shift in Washington's relationship with Pyongyang.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened to attack the U.S. after decades of hostility and suspicion since the 1950-53 Korean War closed with a ceasefire. Trump increasingly hit back with his own rhetoric since taking office last year.
But Kim told reporters at the Capella Hotel that they have chosen to "leave the past behind".
Trump also confirmed he would invite the North's leader to the White House.
The deal released later in the day explained that the U.S. is "committed to provide security guarantees" to North Korea in return for Pyongyang's "firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization".
The agreement included an outline of Trump and Kim's vow to establish new relations and to build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
The statement added that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to take part in further negotiations with the North "at the earliest possible date".
Trump also vowed to end "provocative" joint military exercises with South Korea, shortly after holding an unprecedented meeting with Kim.
- Trump U-Turn
The two leaders issued a joint statement after their summit in Singapore, with Kim vowing to denuclearize in return for security guarantees from Trump.
Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned a series of U.S.-South Korean military drills that are held annually, complaining they are rehearsals for an invasion.
Despite Seoul and Washington insisting for years that the exercises were defensive in nature, Trump made a sharp U-Turn after his Kim meeting.
"I think it is very provocative…You have a country that is right next door," the U.S. president said during a televised press briefing in Singapore.
"War games are very expensive," he also remarked, which is in line with his previous criticism of Seoul for not paying as much as he would like for the stationing of nearly 30,000 American troops in South Korea.
However, the announcement came as news to U.S. Forces Korea, which released a statement insisting they "will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance from the Department of Defense and/or Indo-Pacific Command".
Trump even added he would like to bring U.S. troops "back home" from the Korean Peninsula, although he admitted it would not be possible for now.
His comments may upset South Korean conservatives who have strongly argued in favor of the American military alliance as a way of deterring potential North Korean attacks.
While Trump suggested the peninsula is edging towards a treaty to formally conclude the 1950-53 Korean War, which only ended in a cease-fire rather than a peace deal, the North was threatening to strike Seoul and its allies just months ago.
As for criticism that Tuesday's denuclearization agreement lacked a clear plan, Trump said Kim is dismantling a missile engine test site that could be used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, following last month's public demolition of North Korea's nuclear test site.
Further meetings between Washington and Pyongyang are planned to cement the next steps from both sides in fulfilling Tuesday's outline deal.
Part of their joint communique calls for the return of the remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Korean War.
Trump later Tuesday lauded the vow, saying on Twitter: "Hostages are back home, will be getting the remains of our great heroes back to their families, no missiles shot, no research happening, sites closing...Got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country."
Kim is accused of being one of the world's worst human rights abusers.
There are an estimated 5,300 remains of U.S. service members still in the North, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars group, which lobbies on behalf of veterans.
- UN welcomes summit
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the summit "as an important milestone in the advancement of sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
"Implementing today’s and previous agreements reached, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, will require patience and support from the global community," Guterres said in a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "The Secretary-General urges all concerned parties to seize this momentous opportunity."
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington