Surprise summits in history


Paris (France) (AFP)

The announced meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recalls two other summits between feuding nations that caught the world by surprise.

Here is a look back at Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to communist giant China, the first by a US president, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's 1977 trip to Israel, unprecedented for an Arab leader.

- US masterstroke in China -

Relations between the US and China stalled after the communist assumption of power in Beijing in 1949 and became critical during the Cold War.

They began to thaw in the early 1970s under so-called "ping pong diplomacy", under which the countries exchanged table tennis teams.

In 1971 US national security adviser Henry Kissinger paid a secret visit to Beijing, where he secured an invitation from Chinese premier Zhou Enlai for President Richard Nixon to visit.

It was seen as a diplomatic master stroke at the time with Washington and Beijing engaged on their own Cold War fronts with the Soviet Union.

They saw their friendship as a way to counterbalance the influence wielded worldwide by Moscow.

"There can be no stable and enduring peace without the participation of the People's Republic of China and its 750 million people," Nixon said in a short televised statement to announce his visit to the nation.

"I will undertake what I deeply hope will become a journey for peace."

Nixon visited in February 1972 and his meeting with Enlai was upstaged by a surprise summit with Chairman Mao Zedong.

The visit reopened direct talks between the nuclear armed giants at the height of the Cold War. Following the visit the US acceptance of the "One China" policy, which asserts that Taiwan is not separate from China, has been a major plank of Sino-US relations.

- Egypt's Sadat visits Jerusalem -

The dramatic personal initiative by late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to visit sworn enemy Israel in 1977 led to the first Arab-Israel peace treaty and formally ended the state of war that had existed between the two countries for 30 years.

In November 1977 Sadat told parliament in the presence of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that he was ready to go to Israel and meet its leaders.

Ten days later he paid a first historic visit by an Arab head of state to the Jewish nation and called for a "just and permanent peace" in the entire region.

After visiting east Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, where the main Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha was being celebrated, he delivered a 55-minute speech to Israeli MPs.

He proposed a peace pact to the Jewish state, conditional on the end of Israel's occupation of Arab territories including east Jerusalem and establishment of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

The resulting 1979 treaty did not, however, meet the demands Sadat made in his Knesset speech.

It brought about a rupture between Cairo and the rest of the Arab world. Sadat paid for it with his life when he was assassinated in October 1981.