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Spectacle of returning prisoners gives Trump momentum

Donald Trump loves the stage and he was about to engage in perhaps the biggest diplomatic spectacle of his presidency to date.

As the world's media awaited his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, I watched his White House staff carefully walk through the choreography.

Their boss might think foreign policy is too scripted – but there is one thing he does care deeply about…image.

A giant American flag was hoisted between two fire trucks on the tarmac and optimism was in the air. I stood alongside a host of Korean journalists as they broadcast live, wondering what they might be privately making of this moment.

For Donald Trump, this event was a chance to telegraph an achievement and a demonstration of progress few would have predicted just months ago.

He loves to keep us all guessing and this spectacle was confirmation he is still highly capable of just that.

:: Trump hails Kim as N Korea prisoners arrive home

Image:Mr Trump welcomes Tony Kim (C) and fellow detainee Kim Dong-chul

Unlike the cavernous halls at his rallies where you are often penned in, this time I was just feet away from the President. I asked him what difference he thought the return of the three detainees would make.

But the man who loves an adlib just smiled and gave the thumbs up, before soberly entering a nearby building to wait for the men to arrive.

When they did, I was reporting live, trying to describe what was happening while struggling to see over the vast bank of cameras. His walk up the aeroplane steps was brief.

Donald Trump greets the Americans formerly held hostage in North Korea upon their arrival at Joint Base Andrews 2:18
Video:Trump welcomes home Kim's captives

I kept talking, trying to imagine the scenes on board and uncertain of when he might re-emerge and as ever, what on Earth he might do next.

Then came the cheers and the smiling faces of the detainees as they tasted freedom for the first time in years.

After his clandestine trip to North Korea, it was fascinating to see one of the prisoners hug Mike Pompeo, the man credited with helping get them back.

Donald Trump talks to the media next to the three Americans formerly held hostage in North Korea
Image:Donald Trump talks to the media at Andrews Air Force Base

As the President moved across the tarmac, we rushed to grab a space at the front of the crowd.

He engaged with our questions for seven minutes, sounding notes of optimism and carefully thanking Kim Jong Un for his role in it all.

The mercurial, unorthodox leader who I've followed for more than two years was delivering a conventional and indisputable feat of negotiation.

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He was one of many players of course. It is promises he needs… and his roll the dice summit is the easy bit. Getting rid of nuclear weapons will be much harder.

For now though, he has momentum.

Original Article

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