Singapore – Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have sat down for unprecedented talks between the leaders of two long-hostile nations, as the world watches anxiously for signs of a peace deal and an agreement on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
The meeting on Tuesday between the US president and North Korea’s leader, unthinkable until recent months and uncertain until June 1, is a high-stakes and politically risky venture into summit diplomacy by two unpredictable personalities who have famously exchanged personal insults and threats of war.
US officials and the North Korean state news agency struck a hopeful tone as the meeting approached, while negotiators from both countries met privately in the last hours to iron out agreements, such as over the definition of denuclearisation and the terms under which Pyongyang might agree to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
Early on Tuesday, just a few hours before his meeting with Kim, Trump wrote on Twitter that “meetings between staffs and representatives are going well and quickly”. He quickly cautioned, however, that “we will all know soon whether or not a real deal … can happen”.
His comments echoed those of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said on Monday talks between the countries were “moving quite rapidly and we anticipate they will come to their logical conclusion even more quickly than we had anticipated”.
“I’m very optimistic that we will have a successful outcome from our meetings tomorrow,” he said.
|Accompanied by Singaporean cabinet ministers, Kim made an evening tour of sites in the city-state’s waterfront on the eve of the summit [Vivian Balakrishnan’s Twitter page/via Reuters]|
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) heralded the summit as part of a “changed era.”
“Wide-ranging and profound views on the issue of establishing new DPRK-US relations, the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, the issue of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern, as required by the changed era, will be exchanged at the DPRK-US summit talks,” KCNA reported in English.
DPRK stands for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
After an initial greeting at the 9am local time (01:00 GMT) start of the summit, Trump and Kim will go into a one-on-one meeting with translators only, followed by an expanded meeting with officials from both sides and a working lunch, according to a White House statement.
But the summit is not expected to last beyond Tuesday, with both leaders set to leave Singapore shortly after concluding their meetings.
Heading into Tuesday’s summit, the big competing items on the table came down to what by now are popular acronyms, with the US seeking the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, or CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation), and the North Korean leadership rejecting unilateral nuclear disarmament while seeking its survival, or CVIG (complete, verifiable, irreversible guarantee of North Korea’s security).
On Monday evening, Pompeo said that America’s “ultimate objective” remains the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and that Washington is willing to provide “unique security assurances” if Pyongyang agrees to do so.
WATCH: Seoul hopes Singapore summit could lead to peace with North Korea (1:51)
“President Trump believes that Kim Jong-un has an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our relationship and bring peace and prosperity to his country,” he told reporters.
“The fact that our two leaders are sitting down face-to-face is a sign of the enormous potential to accomplish something that will immensely benefit both of our peoples and the entire world.”
Pompeo is scheduled to immediately fly to Seoul and Beijing after the summit to brief South Korean allies and Chinese officials on the discussions, reflecting the reality than any solutions in the region will need buy-in from those nations.
Both Trump and Kim arrived on Sunday to Singapore, chosen as the site of the summit for its reputation as a safe and orderly place and the fact that is has diplomatic relations with both North Korea and the US.
Follow Tom Benner: @tgbenner