Pandemonium in Panmunjom: Kim and Trump’s hasty DMZ date

PANMUNJOM, South Korea (AFP) – Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un’s first two summits were highly choreographed affairs but their third date was an unscripted event seemingly arranged on a social media whim – and threatened at times to descend into chaos.

Trump admitted he did not know whether Kim would spurn his advances, delivered via Twitter.

“When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up, the press was going to make me look very bad,” the United States (US) President said.

“So you made us both look good,” he told Kim.

The optics of their DMZ dalliance stood in sharp contrast to the made-for-TV blockbusters in Singapore and Hanoi, where everything was precisely arranged down to the last detail.

At their first encounter in Singapore, they emerged from two wings of a stage at precisely the same moment, meeting exactly in the middle for the historic handshake in front of equal numbers of North Korean and US flags.

US President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarised Zone, South Korea yesterday. – AP

But Trump insisted he thought of getting together with Kim only last Saturday, when his online invitation for the Panmunjom pow-wow electrified the G20 summit in Japan. For his part, Kim admitted he was “surprised” by the tweet and a subsequent more formal invitation.

In the event, no one seemed sure when the two leaders should start their walks to the border. Someone peeked out from Freedom House on the southern side, appearing to raise their hand to the north and hastily retreating.

A few seconds later Trump emerged from the glass doors while Kim, in his trademark Mao suit, advanced from the steps of Panmungak, an imposing building on the northern side.

But despite Trump’s visible efforts to walk as slowly as possible he arrived on the line several seconds before Kim.

Another historic handshake, then some gesticulation from the US President, apparently pointing to North Korean soil before he took his leap into history, becoming the first occupant of the White House to set foot in the North.

Under a travel ban imposed by his own administration, ordinary US citizens are not allowed to journey to the isolated country without special dispensation.

They clasped hands again on the Pyongyang side, as five North Korean photographers and cameramen buzzed around them frantically – frequently spoiling the view for snappers on the southern side, much to their frustration.

“Move! Clear! Hey! Get the photographers out the way,” journalists screamed, as the North Korean media stepped into their shot at history.

Even that high point was up in the air until the last moment, according to the US President.