Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for US-North Korea summit

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for US-North Korea summit
PHOTO: Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump arrived in Singapore Sunday for an unprecedented summit, with Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal at the top of the agenda and the US president calling it a "one-time shot" at peace.

Bringing the Korean War to a formal end 65 years after hostilities ceased will also be on the table at the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting president of its "imperialist enemy".

It is an extraordinary turnaround from the tensions of last year, when Kim accelerated his weapons programmes -- earning the North more sets of UN Security Council sanctions -- and the two men traded personal insults and threats of war.

But critics charge that the meeting risks being largely a triumph of style over substance.

Kim arrived in Singapore on board an Air China 747 that, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24, took off from Pyongyang in the morning ostensibly bound for Beijing then changed its flight number in midair and headed south.

He was driven into the city centre in a stretch Mercedes-Benz limousine accompanied by a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, and later met Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, thanking him for hosting the event.

"If the summit becomes a success, the Singaporean efforts will go down in history," Kim said.

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un meet PM Lee Hsien Loong at Istana ahead of summit

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    US President Donald Trump expressed his gratitude on Monday (June 11) to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for Singapore’s role in hosting the summit between the United States and North Korea, saying he appreciated the hospitality, professionalism and friendship.

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    Mr Trump, in his presidential state car nicknamed The Beast, left the Shangri-La Hotel on Monday to meet PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana for the working lunch.

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    The two leaders shared a warm handshake in front of cameras at 12.45pm before they sat down for the meeting.

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    The Straits Times understands the lunch is being catered by Gordon Grill at Goodwood Park Hotel. Dishes on the menu include angus beef tenderloin and lobster bisque.

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    He is expected to have a meet and greet session with US embassy staff after his engagement at the Istana.

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    During the meeting, the officials also celebrated Mr Trump's birthday. He is turning 72 on June 14.

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    He was accompanied by a convoy of more than 30 vehicles.

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    Broad smiles and a firm handshake kicked off the first meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday (June 10), as Singapore prepares to host a historic summit whose twists and turns have enraptured the world.

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    The two leaders discussed relations between their countries, developments in North Korea and the region, including recent positive developments on the Korean peninsula, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

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    “Prime Minister Lee complimented the bold and admirable decision by Chairman Kim and President of the United States Donald Trump to come together for this Summit,” it said.

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    Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un, gets in a vehicle, as she leaves for the Istana to meet with PM Lee.

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    Arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's motorcade at the Istana.

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    Members of the public and tourists trying to get a glimpse of the arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's motorcade at the Istana.

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    Members of the public and tourists trying to get a glimpse of the arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's motorcade at the Istana.

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    Police salute as the vehicle carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves the Istana

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    The vehicle carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves the Istana, after a meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,

Trump landed in the evening after a long flight from Canada and the G7 meeting there, telling Singaporean officials who welcomed him that he was feeling "very good" about the summit.

Authorities imposed tight security around the summit venue and the luxury hotels where the leaders were to stay -- including installing extra pot plants outside Kim's accommodation to obstruct reporters' views.

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'Not just a photo op'

Washington is demanding the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the North, while Pyongyang has so far only made public pledges of its commitment to the denuclearisation of the peninsula -- a term open to wide interpretation -- while seeking security guarantees in return.

In a report describing Kim's departure from Pyongyang, KCNA said a "changed era" had come about, adding that views on achieving denuclearisation and a "permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula" would be exchanged at the summit.

But former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said he expects little progress on the key issue of defining the parameters of denuclearisation .

"The success will be in the shutter clicks of the cameras," he said. "They both get what they want."

Trump lands in Singapore for meeting with North Korea's Kim

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    Donald Trump arrived in Singapore Sunday for an unprecedented summit, several hours after Kim Jong Un touched down.

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    Trump landed in the evening after a long flight from Canada and the G7 meeting there, telling Singaporean officials who welcomed him that he was feeling “very good” about the summit.

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    Trump insisted last week that the summit would “not be just a photo op”, saying it would help forge a “good relationship” that would lead to a “process” towards the “ultimate making of a deal”.

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    But as he embarked for Singapore he changed his tune, calling it a “one-time shot” and adding he will know “within the first minute” whether an agreement will be possible.

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    “If I think it won’t happen, I’m not going to waste my time,” he said.

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    He has also dangled the prospect of Kim Jong Un visiting Washington if the meeting goes well.

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    Trump flew into Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base aboard Air Force One, looking to strike a deal that will lead to the denuclearisation of one of America’s bitterest foes.

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    After stepping down from Air Force One on a steamy tropical night, Trump was greeted by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

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    Asked by a reporter how he felt about the summit, Trump said: “Very good”. He then got into his limousine for the drive to his hotel in central Singapore.

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    When Trump and Kim meet on Tuesday at Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore’s port with a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches, they will be making history.

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    The US president arrived in Singapore ahead of schedule after he left the G7 meeting in Canada early.

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    En route to Singapore, Mr Trump had tweeted that the meeting here was a chance to achieve a"truly wonderful result for North Korea and the world”.

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    Mr Trump waving to bystanders from his limousine.

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    It is not immediately clear the size of Mr Trump’s travelling party although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser are expected to be involved in the summit. First Lady Melania Trump did not travel with Mr Trump.

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    Ahead of his arrival, a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport plane had been spotted at the base.

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    The massive transport plane has been known to carry the US president’s custom limousine nicknamed “The Beast”.

Trump insisted last week that the summit would "not be just a photo op", saying it would help forge a "good relationship" that would lead to a "process" towards the "ultimate making of a deal".

But as he embarked for Singapore he changed his tune, calling it a "one-time shot" and adding he will know "within the first minute" whether an agreement will be possible.

"If I think it won't happen, I'm not going to waste my time," he said.

On Sunday Pope Francis struck an optimistic note, saying he hoped the talks might "ensure a future of peace for the Korean peninsula and the whole world."

But the value of the event -- long sought by the North, and which Trump apparently impulsively agreed to in March, reportedly without consulting his advisers -- has been called into question by many seasoned experts.

"People call it a historic summit but... it is important to understand that this summit was available to any US president who wanted to do it and the point is no US president wanted to do this, and for good reasons," said Christopher Hill, a former lead US nuclear negotiator with North Korea.

Decades of tensions

The two countries have been at loggerheads for decades.

The North invaded the South in 1950 and the ensuing war pitted US-led UN troops backing Seoul against Pyongyang's forces which were aided by China. The conflict ended in an armistice which sealed the division of the peninsula.

Occasional provocations by the North have continued while Pyongyang has made increasing advances in its nuclear arsenal, which it says it needs to defend against the risk of a US invasion.

Last year it carried out by far its most powerful nuclear test to date and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, while Trump threatened the North with "fire and fury" and Kim dubbed him a "mentally deranged US dotard".

But the South's Winter Olympics in February were the catalyst for a flurry of diplomatic moves as South Korea's dovish leader Moon Jae-in sought to bring the two sides together.

Kim has met twice with both Moon and Xi Jinping, the president of China, long the North's most important ally.

Pyongyang has taken some steps to show sincerity, returning three US detainees and blowing up the entrances to its nuclear test site.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that progress was being made in bringing the two sides together in their understanding of denuclearisation.

But Trump baffled observers when he said he did not think he had to prepare "very much" for the summit.

"It's about attitude," Trump said. "So this isn't a question of preparation."

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