SINGAPORE : – Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump were heading for Singapore on Sunday for an unprecedented summit in an attempt to address the last festering legacy of the Cold War, with the US President calling it a “one time shot” at peace.
Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal — which has seen it subjected to several sets of UN Security Council sanctions and threatened with military action by the Trump administration — will top the agenda.
Bringing the Korean War to a formal end 65 years after hostilities ceased will also be on the table at the first-ever summit between a North Korean leader and a sitting president of its “imperialist enemy”.
The North Korean leader was due to meet Singaporean President Lee Hsien Loong later on Sunday, the city-state’s foreign ministry said, while Trump was flying from Canada on board Air Force One after leaving the G7 summit early.
Authorities imposed tight security around the summit venue and related luxury hotels — including installing extra pot plants outside one contender for Kim’s accommodation to obstruct reporters’ views.
Tuesday’s Singapore meeting is the climax of the astonishing flurry of diplomacy on and around the Korean peninsula this year, but critics charge that it risks being largely a triumph of style over substance.
Washington is demanding the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation (CVID) 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.
Former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage expected little progress on the key issue of defining denuclearisation.
“The success will be in the shutter clicks of the cameras,” he said. “They both get what they want.”
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.
He has also dangled the prospect of Kim Jong Un visiting Washington if the meeting goes well.
But even the merit of the event itself — long sought by the North, and which Trump apparently impulsively agreed to in March, reportedly without consulting his advisers — has been called into question.
“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.