SINGAPORE, June 10, 2018 (AFP) : North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
arrived in Singapore Sunday for an unprecedented summit with Donald Trump,
with his 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
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
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
President 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, while Trump was flying from Canada on board Air Force One
after leaving a G7 meeting early.
Authorities imposed tight security around the Singapore summit venue and
related luxury hotels — including installing extra pot plants outside Kim’s
expected accommodation to obstruct reporters’ views.
– ‘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.
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 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.
“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 saw US-led UN
troops backing Seoul fight their way to a stalemate against Pyongyang’s
forces which were aided by China, before 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
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
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