Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un signed what the US president described as a “very important” document following the conclusion of their historic summit in Singapore. “The letter that we are signing is very comprehensive, and I think both sides will be very impressed with the results,” Mr Trump said as he sat alongside the North Korean leader, providing an image that would have been unimaginable until very recently. Mr Kim said the US and North Korea would “leave the past behind” in signing the document.
“The world will see a major change. I would like to express gratitude to President Trump for making this meeting happen.” Neither Mr Trump nor Mr Kim said what the letter entailed. But asked if the two sides were moving towards denuclearisation, Mr Trump said: “We are starting that process very quickly.” The two leaders held a one-on-one meeting for about 40 minutes, followed by an expanded bilateral with their top aides and then a working lunch. Mr Trump called the talks with Mr Kim “really fantastic” as the two men concluded the first summit between a US president and North Korean leader, a historic event in Singapore that came after decades of hostility.
“We are very proud of what took place today. I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korea peninsula is going to be very much different situation,” Mr Trump said. “We both are going to do something and we have developed a very special bond . . . We’re going to take care of a very big and very dangerous problem for the world”. The landmark summit marked the first stage in a process that the US, Japan, China and South Korea hope will lead to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.
Mr Trump was scheduled to hold a press conference later on Tuesday to discuss the negotiations. As the two leaders walked through the Capella Hotel where the summit was held, Mr Kim said to Mr Trump that “many people in the world will think of this as a . . . form of fantasy . . . from a science fiction movie.” The US delegation consisted of Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, John Bolton, national security adviser, and John Kelly, chief of staff. The North Korean side included Mr Kim’s confidant Kim Yong Chol, who recently met Mr Trump in the White House.
At the opening of the summit, Mr Kim said there would be “challenges ahead but we will work with [President] Trump”. He said: “We overcame all kinds of scepticism and speculations about this summit and I believe that this is good for the peace.” The summit, which comes 17 months after Mr Trump took office, follows a turbulent period that saw the two nations at one point appear to edge dangerously close to war. The leaders had fired insults at each other last summer with Mr Trump calling Mr Kim a “madman” and the North Korean leader responding by calling Mr Trump a “dotard”.
The Singapore summit is the product of intense diplomacy that began after Mr Kim signalled earlier this year that he wanted to meet Mr Trump. The opening came as the US continued to ratchet up a campaign aimed at squeezing North Korea economically in a bid to bring Mr Kim to the negotiating table. Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, on Tuesday he hoped that the summit would bring “complete denuclearisation and peace”. Ahead of the meeting, Mr Trump hit out at critics of his move to meet Mr Kim — a summit that only two weeks ago appeared to be in jeopardy because of a bout of tough rhetoric from both sides.
The summit comes on the heels of the G7 in Canada where the US ended up badly isolated from its traditional allies over rising trade tensions that threaten to seriously fracture the decades-old group of industrialised countries. In contrast to his sharp criticism of Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, Mr Trump has over the past few weeks praised Mr Kim, whom he frequently referred to as “rocket man” last year. The US said little about the negotiations leading up to the summit. But it has stressed that North Korea would remain under sanctions until it undertook the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula. In return, it has offered to provide security guarantees, which Pyongyang desperately wants.
“We are prepared to take what will be security assurances that are different, unique than . . . America has been willing to provide previously. We think this is both necessary and appropriate,” Mr Pompeo said on Monday, while refusing to say whether the guarantees would include removing the more than 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea. While Trump administration officials argue that the US president is pursuing a bold approach because of the failures of his predecessors, some North Korea experts worry that he will be played by Mr Kim and his experienced nuclear negotiators — some of whom have been dealing with the US for more than two decades.
“Donald Trump is narrowly focused on his chess game with Kim, but seems to be playing checkers, offering a peace declaration in exchange for hollow repeats of the North’s professed commitment to denuclearisation,” said Michael Green, a former top Asia official in the Bush administration. “Meanwhile, China is poised to win on a second chess board where the president’s moves could unsettle US alliances.”