Trump set to meet with Kim one-on-one, sets early departure
- Lorraine Moran
With a handshake in Singapore, President Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday morning in the first meeting between a sitting USA president and the head of the North Korean regime. Yet even before they met, Trump announced plans to leave early, raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back.
They will first enter a one-on-one meeting with translators only, the first meeting ever between a US president and North Korea's leader - and Trump's first opportunity to gauge Kim's willingness to negotiate on dismantling his nuclear weapons program. He allegedly gave Kim a copy of Trump's book The Art of the Deal during a visit to Pyongyang, according to a 2017 report from The Washington Post.
"We are hopeful this summit will have set the conditions for future productive talks", Pompeo said. "And it's all within the budget that the prime minister has specified, anyway". North Korea also wants an end to what it considers America's "hostile policy" and a security guarantee that the USA will not seek to remove the regime.
As for Singapore, the White House said Trump was leaving early because negotiations had moved "more quickly than expected", but gave no details about any possible progress in preliminary talks.
Both leaders first emerged at 9:03 a.m. local time, walking along a bright red carpet from separate sides of a staging location at the Capella Hotel resort on Sentosa Island to shake hands with a backdrop of USA and North Korean flags. Traffic was held up in the steamy midday sun and scores of bystanders were penned in by police when Trump went to meet Lee.
Marina Bay Sands is a landmark in Singapore, featuring a hotel, casino, museum, shopping mall, and incredible views of the city and the bay. As it happens, the North Korean and the American share a tendency to act unpredictably on the world stage.
Kim was accompanied at the meeting by vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yong Chol, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the WPK Ri Su Yong, and Colonel General No Kwang Chol - one of the three promoted in a recent North Korean military shakeup. Or, it could amount to little more than a much-photographed handshake.
Although gaps remain over what denuclearisation would entail, Trump sounded a positive note in a lunch meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It's aimed at settling a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. US officials have said a best case scenario would be that it serves as a launching pad for negotiations that would provide Kim with physical security and his closed off nation with economic assurances in exchange for irreversibly dismantling his country's nuclear capabilities.
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There was no word on how Trump was spending the night before the summit. After his premature departure from Quebec, he continued to tweet angrily at Trudeau from Singapore, saying Monday, "Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal".
It's unclear what Trump and Kim might decide Tuesday.
Any nuclear deal will hinge on North Korea's willingness to allow unfettered outside inspections of the country's warheads and nuclear fuel, much of which is likely kept in a vast complex of underground facilities.
In part, these lowered expectations are a reflection of the extreme skepticism among many that the North can be persuaded to give up a nuclear programme it has stubbornly built over the decades, often in secrecy and despite intense sanctions, global condemnation and widespread suffering among its people.
If things fall apart, it could be because "Trump presents Kim with a hard-and-fast binary choice: relinquish nuclear weapons and live in peace and prosperity, or cling to them and risk the impoverishment of your people and the safety of your regime", Haas said.
Experts believe the North is on the brink of being able to target the entire USA mainland with its nuclear-armed missiles, and while there's deep skepticism that Kim will quickly give up those hard-won nukes, there's also some hope that diplomacy can replace the animosity between the U.S. and the North.
While advisers say Trump has been reviewing briefing materials, the president insists his gut instincts will matter most when he gets in the room with Kim.
"I feel really great", Trump said. "That's what I do".
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