What Other Presidents Met With North Korea? The Answer Might Shock You
When President Donald Trump announced plans were being made for him to visit North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un face-to-face on Thursday, March 8, it meant the world may soon witness a historic scene. The reason it's such a big deal can best be summed up by answering a simple question. Which other U.S. presidents have met with North Korea?
If Trump does actually meet with his North Korean counterpart, it would represent the first time a sitting president met with a leader of the Kim regime, which has been in power since the Korean War. In fact, a U.S. president haven't even shared a phone call with a North Korean leader, as The Los Angeles Times notes. (Plus, technically speaking, the United States and North Korea can still be described as being at war with each other. That's because the Korean War of the 1950s never formally ended with a peace treaty. Only an armistice stopped the fighting between the two nations and American ally South Korea.)
Now, over 70 years later, history could be made. President Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un by the end of May, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, March 6, Trump teased the possibility of the meeting, announcing via Twitter that "progress" was being made.
"Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned," Trump tweeted. "The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!"
Two days later, the president tweeted on the subject again, confirming reports about an imminent meeting.
"Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze," Trump tweeted on Thursday, March 8. "Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!"
The closest that North Korea and the United States have come to having its two leader meet was in 2000. That's when former President Bill Clinton sent his top diplomat — former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — to meet with Kim Jong-il.
Kim Jong-il is Kim Jong-un's father, and the former leader of North Korea up until his death in December 2011.
One of the more memorable images from Alright's trip was a toast she made while dining with North Korean counterparts.
"I believe that our meetings during these two days will help us to move further down the road of cooperation," she said at the time, according to a transcript from The New York Times. "Mr. Chairman, the process in which we are now engaged is a process that your father, President Kim Il Sung, helped to begin. It can lead to reconciliation and reunification of the peninsula and to more normal and prosperous relations between your government and others in the region and the world."
Needless to say, the American government and North Korea have not "moved further down the road of cooperation," as Albright acknowledged in an op-ed for The New York Times this past December.
The former Secretary of State implied that the loss of the presidency to Republicans — when George W. Bush won the White House over former Vice President Al Gore just days after Albright's trip — resulted in the potential for progress with North Korea being loss.
"Obviously, if this dilemma were easy to resolve, it would have been settled long ago," Albright wrote. "The fundamental problem is that the North Korean leadership is convinced it requires nuclear weapons to guarantee its own survival."
Experts have expressed skepticism, but at this point, if the dilemma does get resolved, it might stem from an unprecedented meeting between an American president and North Korea's leader.