Trump, Kim Jong Launch Historic Summit In Singapore With A Handshake

Singapore summit: US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un hold their first one-on-one on ending a nuclear standoff

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Singapore summit: Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands (AFP)

New Delhi/Singapore: 

Highlights

  1. Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un shake hands in Singapore
  2. "The way to come to here was not easy": Kim Jong Un
  3. "We will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt": Donald Trump
With a handshake in Singapore, US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un marked the beginning of their first one-on-one meeting after months of negotiations over narrowing their differences on how to end a nuclear standoff. The meeting ended in less than an hour.

The two men strode toward each other and shared the handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with ramifications for the world.

"The way to come to here was not easy," Kim said, sitting at a table with Mr Trump. "The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today."

The US President predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim. "We will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt," Mr Trump said amid smiles and backslapping that belied the decades of tension and blood spilled between the two Cold War foes.

After some initial exchanges lasting around 40 minutes, Mr Trump and Kim emerged, walking side-by-side through the hotel before re-entering the meeting room, where they were joined by their most senior officials. Kim was heard telling Mr Trump through a translator: "I think the entire world is watching this moment. Many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a fantasy...science fiction movie."

Asked by a reporter how the meeting was going, Mr Trump said: "Very good. Very, very good. Good relationship." The US President said he and Kim "will solve a big problem, a big dilemma... by working together, we will get it taken care of."
 
donald trump kim jong un reuters

Donald Trump was the first to arrive at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore's port. Television images showed Kim Jong Un's motorcade arriving later (Reuters)

The White House said that discussions with North Korea had moved "more quickly than expected" and Mr Trump would leave Singapore today night after the summit, rather than Wednesday, as scheduled earlier.

Kim is due to leave today afternoon, a source involved in the planning of his visit has said, news agency Reuters reported.
 
donald trump motorcade reuters

The motorcade of US President Donald Trump travels towards Sentosa for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore (Reuters)

While Mr Trump and Kim searched each other's eyes and words for signs of trust or deceit, the rest of the world watched, and hoped that somehow these two unpredictable leaders would find a way to defuse one of the planet's most dangerous flashpoints.

The meeting would have been unthinkable last year when tensions spiralled in the region over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes as it raced towards the goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US.
 
donald trump kim jong un reuters

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk to shake hands at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore (Reuters)

For both men, the summit, the first between leaders of North Korea and the United States, was a defining moment of their careers.

For Mr Trump, cutting a deal to end the North Korean nuclear threat with his approach to Kim, in defiance of the US security establishment's long-held ways of dealing with the North, would be a success unmatched by any predecessors.
 
Although the outcome of the summit is uncertain, Mr Trump and Kim could agree on a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War, the fire in which his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, forged the North Korean state. The war was concluded with a truce, not a peace treaty, but a treaty will also have to include China, which was party to the armistice.

The young Kim is reviled as an international pariah over the 2017 murder in Malaysia of his half-brother, and the execution of hundreds of officials, including his uncle, for suspected disloyalty.

But he will win legitimacy with the handshake.

A successful summit could also herald momentous changes in the security landscape of northeast Asia, in a similar way to how the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 changed Europe.
 
singapore summit reuters

A view looking toward Sentosa, the resort island where Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump met today (Reuters)

For China, peace on the Korean peninsula would benefit regional development, especially that of its northeastern rustbelt.

While China has broadly supported the summit, it will want to protect its interests. North Korea has always been a useful buffer between China and US forces in South Korea.

Japan will also be watching with ambivalence -- happy to see the sabre-rattling ending but worried its security might be sacrificed in Mr Trump's rush to neutralise the North Korean threat to the United States.
 
donald trump kim jong un afp

An employee of a foreign exchange trading company in Tokyo looks at the screens displaying live news of meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in Singapore (AFP)

Early morning today before Mr Trump and Kim met, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fed the mounting anticipation of diplomatic breakthrough: "We're ready for today."

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North Korea, however, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim's dynastic rule.

Sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until that happened, Mr Pompeo said. "North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearise and we are eager to see if those words prove sincere," he said.

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