PANMUNJOM, Korea – With wide grins and a historic handshake, President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un met at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone on Sunday and agreed to revive talks on the pariah nation’s nuclear program. Trump, pressing his bid for a legacy-defining deal, became the first sitting American leader to step into North Korea.
What was intended to be an impromptu exchange of pleasantries turned into a 50-minute meeting, another historic first in the yearlong rapprochement between the two technically warring nations. It marked a return to face-to-face contact between the leaders after talks broke down during a summit in Vietnam in February. Significant doubts remain, though, about the future of the negotiations and the North’s willingness to give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The border encounter was a made-for television moment. The men strode toward each other from opposite sides of the Joint Security Area and shook hands over the raised patch of concrete at the Military Demarcation Line as cameras clicked and photographers jostled to capture the scene.
After asking if Kim wanted him to cross, Trump took 10 steps into the North with Kim at his side, then escorted Kim back to the South for talks at Freedom House, where they agreed to revive the stalled negotiations.
The spectacle marked the latest milestone in two years of roller-coaster diplomacy between the two nations.
Personal taunts of “Little Rocket Man” (by Trump) and “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (by Kim) and threats to destroy each other have given way to on-again, off-again talks, professions of love and flowery letters.
“I was proud to step over the line,” Trump told Kim as they met on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom. “It is a great day for the world.”
Kim hailed the moment, saying of Trump, “I believe this is an expression of his willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future.” Kim added that he was “surprised” when Trump issued an unorthodox meeting invitation by tweet Saturday.
As he left South Korea on his flight to Washington, Trump tweeted that he had “a wonderful meeting” with Kim. “Stood on the soil of North Korea, an important statement for all, and a great honor!”
Trump had predicted the two would greet each other for about “two minutes,” but they ended up spending more than an hour together. Trump was joined in the Freedom House conversation with Kim by his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers.
Substantive talks between the countries had largely broken down after the last Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, which ended early when the leaders hit an impasse.
The North has balked at Trump’s insistence that it give up its weapons before it sees relief from crushing international sanctions. The U.S. has said the North must submit to “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” before sanctions are lifted.
As he announced the resumptions of talks, Trump told reporters “we’re not looking for speed. We’re looking to get it right.”
He said economic sanctions on the North would remain. But he seemed to move off the administration’s previous rejection of scaling back sanctions in return for piecemeal North Korean concessions, saying, “At some point during the negotiation things can happen.”
Peering into North Korea from atop Observation Post Ouellette, Trump told reporters before he greeted Kim that there had been “tremendous” improvement since his first meeting with the North’s leader in Singapore last year.
Trump claimed the situation used to be marked by “tremendous danger” but “after our first summit, all of the danger went away.”
But the North has yet to provide an accounting of its nuclear stockpile, let alone begin the process of dismantling its arsenal.
The latest meeting, with the U.S. president coming to Kim, represented a striking acknowledgement by Trump of the authoritarian Kim’s legitimacy over a nation with an abysmal human rights record. Kim is suspected of having ordered the killing of his half brother through a plot using a nerve agent at a Malaysian airport in 2017. Meantime, the United Nations said in May that about 10 million people in North Korea are suffering from “severe food shortages” after the North had one of the worst harvests in a decade.
Trump told reporters he invited the North Korean leader to the United States, and potentially even to the White House.
“I would invite him right now,” Trump said, standing next to Kim.
Speaking through a translator, Kim responded that it would be an “honor” to invite Trump to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang “at the right time.”
North Korea’s state-run media described the meeting as “an amazing event.”
Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the leader of the isolated nation last year when they signed an agreement in Singapore to bring the North toward denuclearization.
In the midst of the DMZ gathering, Trump repeatedly complained he was not receiving more praise for de-escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula through his personal diplomacy with Kim. Critics claim Trump actually inflamed tensions with his threats to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea, before embracing a diplomatic approach.
North Korea’s nuclear threat has not been contained, according to Richard Haas, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. He tweeted Sunday that the threat of conflict has subsided only because the Trump administration has decided it can live with North Korea’s “nuclear program while it pursues the chimera of denuclearization.”
Every president since Ronald Reagan has visited the 1953 armistice line, except for George H.W. Bush, who visited when he was vice president. The show of bravado and support for South Korea, one of America’s closest military allies, has evolved over the years to include binoculars and bomber jackets.
While North Korea hasn’t recently tested a long-range missile that could reach the U.S., last month it fired off a series of short-range missiles. Trump has brushed off the significance of those tests, even as his own national security adviser, John Bolton, has said they violated UN Security Council resolutions.
Jody Richards Elementary School Principal Leslie Shultz said teachers are carrying a mountain’s worth of expectations on their backs.
Between transforming their lessons on the fly for a student with dyslexia or ADHD, to even factoring in a student’s daily mental health, it’s a lot to handle, she said.
“Information overload is something my teachers are tackling right now,” Shultz said, and she sees her role as her school’s new principal to help teachers personalize classroom learning for each of their students.
Shultz, who has a teaching background in special education, was named Jody Richards Elementary’s principal in April after serving as assistant principal there since 2014.
She replaced Stephanie Martin, who took a position at Western Kentucky University.
Since that time, Shultz has been laying the groundwork on plans she has for her school when students return Aug. 7.
That includes efforts to sharpen students’ vocabulary and coping skills for talking about social and emotional issues when something’s wrong.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning said social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, create and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.
Helping students talk about those issues is an important first step.
“We want to really increase the students’ social emotional vocabulary,” Shultz said.
Growing up in Shepherdsville as the daughter of two educators, Shultz thought she wanted something different as a career. She attended WKU and earned a business degree, but she ended up in education after pursuing an alternate route to teacher certification program there.
When she started substitute teaching, Shultz said, “it felt like home.”
Shultz began her special education teaching career at Butler County Schools in 2005, then took a similar job at T.C. Cherry Elementary School in 2012. Her first administrative position came in 2014 with assistant principal job at Jody Richards Elementary.
Shultz is married to her husband, Shane, and together they have an 8-year-old daughter, Dylan, who will be a third-grader at Jody Richards Elementary in the fall.
For Shultz, her favorite thing about her school is the mornings, when students and staff show up happy to see one another and start the day.
“It’s kind of like a magical time of the day,” she said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.
Current job title: Potter Gray Elementary School principal.
Hometown: Bowling Green.
Family: My family includes my wife, Rachel; daughter, Anna; son, Will; father, Randy Brown; mother, Donna Brown; sister, Elizabeth Brown; father-in-law, Hub Green; and mother-in-law, Merry Lynn Green.
The one thing no one knows about me is ... I’ve read all of the Dan Brown books featuring the character Robert Langdon.
My dream job is ... to be a professional golfer.
My first job was ... a retail sales job at Famous Footwear that was in Greenwood Mall.
The best advice I ever got was ... when working with other people to remember The Four Agreements: 1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions and 4) Always do your best.
My heroes (and why) are ... My hero is my grandfather Leslie Brown.
He worked day in and out to provide for his family. He served in the Korean War, worked at Gary Brothers, served in the Warren County Treasurer’s Office for a time period and did what he could to serve his church, his family and others in the community.
He was good at creating things out of random parts and pieces, and he always wanted to show me how things worked.
I loved spending hours with him in his garage and on the farm.
If I could do it all over again, I ... would pursue more of a role in the music world along with being an educator and teacher.
The part of my job I could do without is ... hard to think of. I love my job, the people, the students and the ability to teach children how to become outstanding individuals of high character.
The one thing I always carry with me is ... I always wear, and never take off, my wedding ring. My vow to my wife and my love for her is stronger than anything else. My wedding ring is a constant reminder of her and that God placed us together for a purpose.
The best meal I ever had was ... at a Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, The Precinct, in Cincinnati. Ten-ounce filet cooked medium plus with a side of lobster mac and cheese and green beans.
At the top of my bucket list is ... to attend all four major golf championships and the Ryder Cup. I already have the Masters and the PGA down, only three to go.
Sidewalks are expected to be one of the primary topics at Tuesday’s meeting of the Bowling Green City Commission.
On the agenda for the 4:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall is approving a bid for sidewalk construction this fiscal year, as well as consideration for sidewalk projects next fiscal year.
Up for approval is a $357,792 bid from Infinity Pipeline of Bowling Green for construction of about 6,300 linear feet of sidewalks along portions of Kenton, Park, Magnolia and Sandra streets, North Lee Drive and Potter Avenue.
The work includes five-foot sidewalks, utility relocation, drainage boxes, curb, gutter and related projects.
The city public works department is also slated to present at a work session its candidates for fiscal year 2020 sidewalk projects.
According to a memo from Assistant City Engineer Kyle Hunt, the proposed projects are:
The total length of the projects is 4,298 feet.
Also Tuesday, commissioners are slated to vote on a municipal order dissolving the Convention Center Corp., which the city established to oversee the Sloan Convention Center.
With the bonds for that project now paid off, the city commission will take direct control of the convention center.
In June, the corporation board approved issuing a request for proposals for the sale of the Sloan Convention Center, with board members saying they did not think the city should compete with private convention businesses.
– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.