Monday, 25 June, 2018

Kim Jong-un, Trump arrive in Singapore ahead of landmark summit

Kim Jong Un delivers his New Years speech at an undisclosed place in North Korea Jan. 1 2018 in this Korean Central News Agency Korea News Service via AP FILE
| 11 June, 2018, 15:42

He's also repeatedly expressed his support for a meeting between Trump and Kim - even offering to facilitate it or serve as an ambassador of sorts.

The North Korean leader shook hands with Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan shortly after arriving at Singapore's Chagi airport. The U.S. has said a formal end to the Korean War needs to be negotiated between the North and South, but this topic is sure to come up.

Officials who arrived with Trump 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.

Whether they could agree to a draft document will likely determine whether Kim and Trump can sign a tangible "outcome" at the summit.

The summit - the first between a sitting U.S. president and any North Korean Leader - will mark a turnaround of relations between Trump and Kim after a long-running exchange of furious threats and insults. But it's unclear what that security guarantee would entail. For starters, we need to be realistic about what "success" means.

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles in front of a cake during an advanced birthday celebration at his meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Istana, ahead of a summit between North Korea and the U.S., Singapore, June 11, 2018, in this photo obtained from social media.

The issues on the table remain stubborn and complex for two countries that have been at odds for almost 70 years. Volatility and the Trump-Kim pairing go together like joint statements and the phrase "constructive talks".

Kim's entourage is staying at the St Regis, less than 10 minutes walk away, with a motorcade that features a dozen North Korean bodyguards in dark suits who jog in Singapore's drenching heat beside his armoured vehicle.


"This is a leader who is really an unknown personality", Trump said.

"I think the minimum would be a relationship".

A diplomatic source in Seoul told newspaper Chosun Ilbo: 'There was some trepidation about flying the 4,800 km distance aboard Kim Jong-un's own aging plane, so a third country is expected to supply it'.

So just what will a successful meeting between Trump and Kim actually look like?

Mr Kim has only publicly left his country three times since taking power after his despot father's death in late 2011 - twice traveling to China and once across his shared border with the South to the southern part of the Demilitarised Zone in recent summits with the leaders of China and South Korea respectively.

While Singapore has authoritarian leanings, it is still a thriving bastion of capitalism and wealth, and Kim will be performing his high-stakes diplomatic tight-rope walk in front of 3,000 worldwide journalists, including a huge contingent from the ultra-aggressive South Korean press - sometimes referred to by Pyongyang as "reptile media" - two of whom were arrested by Singapore police investigating a report of trespassing at the residence of the North Korean ambassador.

Describing the summit as a "historic" occasion, KCNA reported Monday that Kim would be exchanging "wide-ranging and profound views" during the meeting on issues including "building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula" and "realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".

After more than a day's silence on Twitter, Trump posted four tweets about trade disagreements that were the talk of the G-7 conference, followed by a quick mention of the summit he is now attending - writing "Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!" - before turning back to tweeting about trade once more.

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