SINGAPORE: The leaders of the United States and North Korea met for the first time in Singapore on Tuesday (Jun 12).
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un shook hands in front of the world’s media as they met to negotiate an end to a decades-old stand-off on the Korean Peninsula.
The historic handshake took place at 9.05am at the Capella hotel in Sentosa, in front of a display of North Korean and US flags. Both Trump and Kim smiled and exchanged pleasantries before posing for photographs.
They then adjourned to a sitting room where both Trump and Kim fielded questions. Trump spoke first and said: “It’s my honour … We will have a terrific relationship I have no doubt.”
Speaking in Korean, Kim said that “it was not easy to get here” and “the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles, but we have overcome them and we are here today”.
The leaders then proceeded to have a one-on-one meeting with only their translators present; they are expected to be joined by their delegations for a series of meetings thereafter.
They are also scheduled to have a working lunch after their meetings.
Anticipation had been building in the lead-up to the unprecedented summit, with crowds lining the streets of Singapore when they arrived on Sunday.
Both leaders left their hotels in the Orchard area of Singapore shortly after 8am local time on Tuesday as they headed for Sentosa, which is off Singapore’s southern coast.
The route was lined by curious on-lookers and the media, with people standing three- to four-deep in some parts taking photos and waving as they craned to catch a glimpse of the leaders.
Trump, who left at around 8.05am from the Shangri-La Hotel, tweeted en route to the summit venue on a US Supreme Court ruling.
Kim left the St Regis hotel shortly before 8.15am as his convoy – comprising about 20 security, North Korean state media and official vehicles – made its way to Sentosa.
Crowds also camped out at VivoCity, outside the Sentosa Gateway, and on pavements in Sentosa to take photos and wave at the passing convoys of both leaders.
Kim arrived for the meeting with his sister and confidante Kim Yo Jong and his trusted aide Kim Chang Son.
The extraordinary summit – unthinkable only months ago – comes after the two nuclear-armed foes appeared on the verge of conflict late last year as they slung personal insults and Kim conducted nuclear and missile tests.
In a series of tweets early Tuesday morning Singapore time, Trump indicated that summit preparations were “going well and quickly”.
“We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen,” he tweeted – before hitting out in a subsequent post at “haters & losers” who see the summit itself as a risky up-front concession to Kim.
Pointing at the recent release of three American hostages and Pyongyang’s pledge to refrain from further nuclear or missile tests, Trump charged that “these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say!”
“We will be fine!” he tweeted.
Trump had also said that he would use what he says are long-honed instincts to see whether Kim was bluffing, buying time or serious.
Both Kim and Trump held bilateral talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, when the US president also met with the American community in Singapore at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Kim took in the sights of the city on Monday night as he visited Gardens by the Bay and walked along the Marina Bay waterfront.
He was accompanied by a phalanx of bodyguards and North Korean state media personnel, as well as Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
DEAL REMAINS TO BE SEEN
It remains far from clear that Pyongyang is willing to give up its nuclear weapons, which it says it needs to defend itself against a US invasion.
On the eve of the meeting, aides from both sides were still scrambling to narrow yawning differences over “denuclearisation”, which means vastly different things to the two parties.
“The complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on the eve of the summit.
Pompeo added that the US was willing to offer the regime “unique” security guarantees, to “provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation is not something that ends badly for them”. – CNA
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