Kim Jong-un’s jet arrives in Singapore ahead of landmark summit

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un landed in Singapore, the country’s foreign minister said, ahead of a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump.

“Welcomed Chairman Kim Jong Un, who has just arrived in Singapore,” Vivian Balakrishnan said on Twitter on Sunday, with a picture of him shaking hands with the North Korean leader who was wearing glasses and a dark Maoist suit.

Kim arrived in an Air China 747 that touched down at Changi Airport on Sunday, Singapore’s Straits Times reported.

A cargo plane that accompanied Kim on his recent visit to China also departed the North Korean capital and was likely headed for Singapore, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. 

Kim is due to meet Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the city-state later on Sunday, Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The aircraft carrying Kim to the summit took a mostly inland route while flying over China, according to a flight tracking website.

The Flightradar24 website also showed that there were no civilian planes anywhere near Kim’s flight, despite it passing through a usually busy area for such aircraft.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan welcomed Kim on his arrival in Singapore [Reuters]

Meanwhile on Saturday, a direct flight from Pyongyang landed in Singapore, raising speculation that a delegation of North Korean officials had joined an advance team headed by Kim’s close aide, Kim Chang Son, who was in Singapore to prepare for the talks.

Trump is scheduled to arrive at Singapore’s Paya Lebar Airbase at 12:30 GMT on Sunday and will stay at the Shangri-La Hotel, according to the White House.

Officials onboard Air Force One include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Authorities imposed tight security around the summit venue and related luxury hotels, including installing extra pot plants outside one contender for Kim’s accommodation to obstruct reporters’ views.

At stake at the summit are North Korea’s nuclear weapons and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea spent decades developing nuclear weapons, culminating in the test of a thermonuclear device in 2017. It also successfully tested missiles that had enough range to reach the US mainland.

The tests came amid a campaign of “maximum pressure,” led by Washington, that tightened economic sanctions against Pyongyang and raised the possibility of military action.

In a New Year’s address, Kim said his country had completed development of its nuclear programme and would focus on economic development, suggesting a meeting with South Korea.

After a flurry of contacts between the two Koreas, South Korean officials suggested to Trump in March that Kim would be willing to meet face-to-face.

The summit comes after weeks of sometimes-contentious discussions and was briefly cancelled amid North Korean outrage over messaging from some US advisers.

The Trump-Kim summit, which will be held at the Capella Hotel on Tuesday morning, will mark the first time a North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president.

The talks will focus on reaching an agreement on the denuclearisation of North Korea in exchange for the easing of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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