In this photo released by the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, arrives at the Changi International Airport, Sunday, June 10, 2018, in Singapore ahead of a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore via AP
Trump, Kim converge on Singapore ahead of high-stakes summit
Foster Klug, Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller (Associated Press) - June 11, 2018 - 8:46am

SINGAPORE — President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un converged on this island city-state Sunday ahead of one of the most unusual and highly anticipated summits in recent world history, a sit-down meant to settle a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal.

Trump descended from Air Force One into the steamy Singapore night, greeting officials and declaring he felt "very good" before being whisked away to his hotel via a route lined with police and photo-snapping onlookers. Trump traveled to Singapore from Canada, where he a meeting with other world leaders.

Hours earlier, a jet carrying Kim landed. After shaking hands with Singapore's foreign minister, Kim sped through the streets in a limousine, two large North Korean flags fluttering on the hood, surrounded by other black vehicles with tinted windows and bound for the luxurious and closely guarded St. Regis Hotel.

He and Trump are set to meet Tuesday morning in the first summit of its kind between a leader of North Korea and a sitting U.S. president. The North has faced crippling diplomatic and economic sanctions as it has advanced development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Kim smiled broadly Sunday evening as he met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"The entire world is watching the historic summit between (North Korea) and the United States of America, and thanks to your sincere efforts ... we were able to complete the preparations for the historic summit," Kim told Lee through an interpreter.

Trump is set to meet with Lee on Monday.

Trump has said he hopes to make a legacy-defining deal for the North to give up its nuclear weapons, though he has recently sought to manage expectations, saying more than one meeting may be necessary.

The North, experts believe, stands on the brink of being able to target the entire U.S. 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.

U.S. and North Korean officials are set to meet Monday morning in Singapore to make final preparations for Tuesday's meeting. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines who has taken the lead on policy negotiations with the North, will hold a "working group" with a North Korean delegation.

The North Korean autocrat's every move will be followed by 3,000 journalists who have converged on Singapore, and by gawkers around the world, up until he shakes hands with Trump on Tuesday. It's a reflection of the intense global curiosity over Kim's sudden turn to diplomacy in recent months after a slew of North Korean nuclear and missile tests last year raised serious fears of war.

But it was only Monday morning in North Korea that the government news agency reported that Kim was in Singapore, had met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and would meet Trump on Tuesday. One dispatch by the Korean Central News Agency said North Korea and the U.S. would exchange "wide-ranging and profound views" on establishing new relations, building a "permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism," achieving denuclearization and "other issues of mutual concern, as required by the changed era."

Part of the interest in Tuesday's summit is simply because Kim has had limited appearances on the world stage. He has only publicly left his country three times since taking power after his father's death in late 2011 — traveling twice to China and once across his shared border with the South to the southern part of the Demilitarized Zone for recent summits with the leaders of China and South Korea, respectively.

But it's Kim's pursuit of nuclear weapons that gives his meeting with Trump such high stakes. The meeting was initially meant to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, but the talks have been portrayed by Trump in recent days more as a get-to-know-you session. Trump has also raised the possibility of further summits and an agreement ending the Korean War by replacing the armistice signed in 1953 with a peace treaty. China and South Korea would have to sign off on any legal treaty.

It's unclear what Trump and Kim might decide Tuesday.

Pyongyang has said it is willing to deal away its entire nuclear arsenal if the United States provides it with reliable security assurances and other benefits. But many say this is highly unlikely, given how hard it has been for Kim to build his program and given that the weapons are seen as the major guarantee to his holding onto unchecked power.

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. Past nuclear deals have crumbled over North Korea's reluctance to open its doors to outsiders.

Another possibility from the summit is a deal to end the Korean War, which North Korea has long demanded, presumably, in part, to get U.S. troops off the Korean Peninsula and, eventually, pave the way for a North Korean-led unified Korea.

The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, but the war technically continues today because instead of a difficult-to-negotiate peace treaty, military officers for the U.S.-led United Nations, North Korea and China signed an armistice that halted the fighting. The North may see a treaty — and its presumed safety assurances from Washington — as its best way of preserving the Kim family dynasty. The ensuing recognition as a "normal country" could then allow sanctions relief, and later international aid and investment.

Just meeting with Trump will also give Kim a recognition North Korea has long sought, setting him up as global player and the leader of a country worthy of respect.

DONALD TRUMP KIM JONG UN TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 9, 2019 - 3:14pm

The United States formally concluded that North Korea ordered the murder of Kim Jong-Nam, a half-brother and potential rival to ruler Kim Jong-Un, with the VX nerve agent.

"This public display of contempt for universal norms against chemical weapons use further demonstrates the reckless nature of North Korea and underscores that we cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD program of any kind," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The finding triggered another layer of US economic sanctions against Pyongyang, just as South Korea reported that the regime is ready for talks to end a nuclear standoff.

February 9, 2019 - 3:14pm

A Washington envoy says there was still some hard work to be done ahead of the upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,

Stephen Biegun, the US Special Representative for North Korea, says preparatory talks had been productive, but more dialogue was needed ahead of the summit scheduled for Vietnam from February 27 to 28. — AFP

February 9, 2019 - 9:20am

US President Donald Trump announces that his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place in Hanoi on February 27 and 28.

February 6, 2019 - 2:44pm

US President Donald Trump says he would meet the elusive Chairman Kim Jong Un on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam, although he did not specify the venue. — AFP

January 18, 2019 - 3:42pm

A top North Korean general pays a rare visit to Washington, where he is expected to meet President Donald Trump to finalize a new summit aimed at denuclearization and easing decades of hostility.

Kim Yong Chol, a right-hand man to leader Kim Jong Un, is the first North Korean dignitary in nearly two decades known to have spent the night in the US capital, little more than a year after Trump was threatening to wipe the totalitarian state off the map. — AFP

January 4, 2019 - 2:56pm

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has voiced optimism that a second US-North Korea summit would take place soon but says he doubted it would seal a landmark deal. — AFP

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