American and North Korean officials are holding intensive talks in Singapore to prepare the ground for an historic first meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
“Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday morning. He went on to have lunch with the Singaporean prime minister at the Istana, the country’s presidential palace, where he was given an early birthday cake (Mr Trump turns 72 on Thursday) and said Tuesday’s meeting would be “very interesting”.
Mr Kim had no official agenda for Monday, having already met prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, hours after arriving on a plane loaned to North Korea by China. However, he later took a late-night tour of the city’s waterfront with a large number of the world’s media following in his wake. Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, shared a photo with the North Korean leader which was shared thousands of times on social media,
Mr Trump and Mr Kim will meet at around 9am local time on Tuesday. Any progress will have to be swift – the North Korean delegation is reportedly scheduled to leave Singapore as early as 2pm that afternoon. Mr Trump and Mr Kim plan to meet one-on-one for most of an hour— joined only by translators. Then aides to each will come in for more discussions and a working lunch.
We’ve already heard multiple times from Donald Trump on the morning (Singapore time) of the summit, with the president issuing a characteristic series of tweets. His secretary of state Mike Pompeo has also weighed in on Twitter, sharing a photo and saying the US team is “ready for today”.
North Korea’s state news outlet KCNA is out with a new statement detailing Kim Jong-un’s time in Singapore so far. It describes Mr Kim touring the city-state with other regime officials, praises Singapore as “clean and beautiful” and praises Singaporean officials who guided the North Korean delegation throughout.
Do give a follow to Andrew Buncombe, our man on the ground in Singapore, who is tweeting at
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres had some optimistic words ahead of the summit. He praised Mr Trump and Mr Kim for “seeking to break out of the dangerous cycle that created so much concern for last year”, when the United States and North Korea were threatening one another with annihilation. He said the UN would assist in any way – including by verifying any denuclearisation efforts – but stressed the UN will be limited to a supporting role.
He also said the focus should turn next to the humanitarian situation in North Korea, where the UN is seeking to furnish some $111 million in assistance. Mr Trump last week suggested Asian nations, rather than the US, should supply potential aid.
Before embracing diplomacy in recent months, Donald Trump and his surrogates had repeatedly emphasised they were prepared to use military force against North Korea.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a hawkish South Carolina Republican and administration, doesn’t think talks should mean taking the military option off the table. His call for Congress to authorise military force in the event that talks fail already drew rebukes from Democrats – and now from a fellow Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky, who called Mr Graham “a danger to the country” for making the suggestion.
Donald Trump has issued another tweet about the upcoming meeting, faulting unnamed “haters and losers” – a favourite phrase – opposed to the summit. He referenced North Korea releasing a trio of US citizen hostages and halting missile tests after floating talks.
Journalists massing in Singapore for this historic meeting are reportedly being given free USB fans – and seasoned national security correspondents are warning against using what may be surveillance tools from a North Korean regime that is notorious for monitoring its citizens:
At around 5:30 am Singapore time, Donald Trump weighed in by saying preliminary meetings are going well but leaving open the possibility of failure:
Security will be extraordinarily tight, and the ever-reclusive North Korean regime is reportedly taking precautions to another level by bringing along a portable toilet for Kim Jong-un.
According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the move is intended to “deny determined sewer divers insights into to the supreme leader’s stools.”
How it will be covered: Sean Hannity, a Fox News host and close ally of Donald Trump, will sit down with the president for an exclusive one-on-one after the summit concludes.
Citing two US officials familiar with the planning, Bloomberg said Mr Trump had been willing to stay longer if negotiations were progressing, but since Mr Kim set definite plans for departure, so did Mr Trump.
Mr Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that “All’s quiet” in North Korea.
He said he does not expect it to include a negotiation over reducing the number of US troops in South Korea — currently about 28,000. He says that, at least initially, this is a matter between Washington and Seoul.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim will meet on Singapore’s Sentosa Island for roughly 45 minutes while their entourages wait nearby.
The huddle will come before a larger meeting and a working lunch attended by top advisers to the president and their North Korean counterparts.
Mr Rodman emerged from the baggage claim area at Changi airport around midnight. Last week, Mr Rodman said he would “give whatever support is needed” to his “friends” Mr Trump and Kim.
White House officials have said Rodman will play no official role in the diplomatic negotiations. Mr Trump said last week that Rodman had not been invited to the summit.
He is one of the few westerners to have met the North Korean leader on visits to the capital city Pyongyang.
“Relevant parts of the United Nations system stand ready to support this process in any way, including verification if requested by the key parties. They are the protagonists,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.
That verification may relate to any possible deal on missiles or Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, with the UN helping to track whether anything agreed is being carried out. We are some way away from that yet though.
The White House has said that Donald Trump will visit military bases in both Guam and Hawaii on his way back from Singapore.
Guam was the subject of a missile threat from Pyongyang last year, while Hawaii has been preparing its citizens for the possibly of a missile attack. A false incoming missile alert was sent in error to residents of Hawaii back in January.
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The White House said discussions with North Korea had moved “more quickly than expected” and Mr Trump would leave Singapore on Tuesday night, after the summit. He had earlier been scheduled to leave on Wednesday. Mr Trump will visit military bases in Guam and Hawaii on his way back to Washington.
Bloomberg reported that Mr Kim set a limit of Tuesday for the summit to happen, meaning that while Mr Trump was happy to stay until Wednesday he moved up his departure.
Teams of officials from both sides held working-level talks on Monday, with the aim of preparing a joint statement or agreement Mr Trump and Mr Kim can sign.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the US delegation would be led by Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat who recently held talks with North Korean officials.
But another US official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Monday’s meeting appeared aimed at making 11th-hour progress ahead of the summit, since Sung Kim’s earlier talks did little to narrow a gap between the two sides on the definition of denuclearisation or win agreement on tangible commitments from Pyongyang toward dismantling its nuclear arsenal.
The other senior officials travelling with Mr Trump include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Mr Kim’s delegation consists of Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Defence Minister No Kwang Chol and Kim Yong Chol, a close aide of Kim who has been instrumental in the diplomacy that culminated in Tuesday’s summit.
Kim Yo Jong, leader Kim’s younger sister, was also spotted in his delegation. She emerged as an influential figure in Pyongyang’s opaque leadership in February, when she led a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
When Mr Trump initially agreed to meet with the North Korean leader, the US president spoke of his hope that their encounter could secure a major breakthrough and lead to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
If so, then the meeting would be the most important since Ronald Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in November 1985.
Mr Trump has since sought to play down expectations, saying that the meeting will be an important first step, but that securing a deal will likely take many more meetings.
Given that what the US wants to get out of the summit, a rapid denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, may be different to what North Korea wants, there may be many such meetings. Many observers will be looking to see whether Mr Trump does extend an invitation to his counterpart to visit the White House.