Trump, Kim meet for historic handshake and summit
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Trump predicts a 'terrific relationship' with Kim

Trump, Kim meet for historic handshake and summit

The first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, they shake hands and attempt to negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off

  • People watch a television screen showing live footage of the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, at a railway station in Seoul on June 12, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je)
    People watch a television screen showing live footage of the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, at a railway station in Seoul on June 12, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je)
  • US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
    US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
  • US President Donald Trump (R) poses with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
    US President Donald Trump (R) poses with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump reaches to shake hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    U.S. President Donald Trump reaches to shake hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
  • North Korean and US flags stand side by side at the location where North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un will meet with US President Donald Trump for a US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
    North Korean and US flags stand side by side at the location where North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un will meet with US President Donald Trump for a US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) walks with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, on June 12, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
    North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) walks with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, on June 12, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) meets with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of the US-North Korea summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
    North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) meets with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of the US-North Korea summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
  • US President Donald Trump (3rd R) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (3rd L) sit down with their respective delegations for the US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un became on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
    US President Donald Trump (3rd R) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (3rd L) sit down with their respective delegations for the US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un became on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un  made history on Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands ahead of their attempt to negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off.

On a small stage bedecked with the US and North Korean flags, the two leaders strode toward each other and shook hands, with Trump grasping Kim on the shoulder, before walking off for their meeting.

As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a “terrific relationship” with Kim.

“We will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt,” Trump said amid smiles and backslapping that belied the decades of tension and blood spilled between the two Cold War foes.

US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

North Korea and the United States have overcome the obstacles of a difficult history to hold their summit in Singapore, the North’s leader Kim Jong Un said as the unprecedented meeting opened Tuesday.

“The way to come to here was not easy,” Kim said, sitting at a table with 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 one-on-one meeting concluded after around 48 minutes Tuesday. The two men met with only their interpreters, before going into a second meeting where they are joined by key aides.

Trump said the meeting with Kim was “very, very good” and that the two have an “excellent relationship.”

Trump was flanked in the larger meeting by chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton. They sat across the table from Kim and his team.

Trump said Tuesday at the beginning of expanded discussions with aides from both countries that “We will solve a big problem” and “a big dilemma.”

He talked about the pair achieving “tremendous success together” and predicted that “it will be successful. It will be done.”

It was hard to hear the president and Kim over the constant clicking of camera shutters, and it remained unclear precisely what he was referring to.

US President Donald Trump (3rd R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (3rd L) sit down with their respective delegations for the US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un became on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

The extraordinary summit — unthinkable only months ago — comes after the two nuclear-armed foes appeared on the verge of conflict late last year as they slung personal insults and Kim conducted nuclear and missile tests.

In a series of tweets early Tuesday, Trump indicated that summit preparations were “going well and quickly”.

“We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen,” he tweeted — before hitting out in a subsequent post at “haters & losers” who see the summit itself as a risky up-front concession to Kim.

Pointing at the recent release of three American hostages and Pyongyang’s pledge to refrain from further nuclear or missile tests, Trump charged that “these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say!”

“We will be fine!” he tweeted.

Under heavy security, the leaders left their two hotels for the palms and whitewashed walls of Singapore’s ultra-exclusive Capella Hotel, where the summit takes place.

A motorcade transporting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un sets off to Sentosa, the resort island where Kim is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump for a US-North Korea summit, from his hotel in Singapore on June 12, 2018.( AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY)

The face-to-face with Kim is a far cry from last year when Trump called on the international community to exert “maximum pressure” to buckle the reclusive regime and threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued to threaten the US.

For his part, Kim called Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” and said he would “tame” him, “with fire”.

That will seem a distant memory when the two men will walk towards each other and then sit down for an initial half-day of meetings with ramifications for the entire world.

It is a historic meeting for both men — perhaps comparable to president Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, or Ronald Reagan’s summit 1986 with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

People watch a TV screen showing images of US President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

It is potentially legacy-defining — as long as they can disprove critics’ fears that the meeting will be more about drama than detail.

The North has promised to give up its weapons in the past, while a long history of previous agreements have ultimately foundered.

“If there is no statement of intentions to move toward a peace treaty, if there’s no statement from the North Korean side on denuclearisation, we’re going to find ourselves very quickly in a very hollow summit,” said Ryan Hass of the Brookings Institution.

If that happened, he added, “quickly we’ll move into a space of mutual recrimination and finger-pointing about whose fault it was”.

Hugely symbolic talks

The pair — Kim in his 30s and consolidating his dictatorship, Trump in his 70s and struggling to bend Washington to his impetuous will — are unlikely protagonists, both instantly recognisable and larger-than-life.

But their work this week is deadly serious.

Washington and Pyongyang are still technically at war, even if the mortars, carbines and gunships of the bloody 1950s conflict have long since fallen silent.

Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldiers march on Kim Il-Sung square during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES)

And the totalitarian regime has made rapid progress towards marrying nuclear and missile technology that would put Los Angeles, New York and Washington within striking distance of a nuclear holocaust.

The United States says that is unacceptable and will be dealt with, one way or another.

But for North Korea the mere fact of the talks is a hugely symbolic advance.

For its leader, standing as an equal beside the US president in front of a phalanx of cameras is a goal the pariah state has sought for decades, with critics charging that it legitimises one of the most ruthless regimes.

On Monday evening Kim — accompanied by a phalanx of bodyguards and his personal television crew — took a night-time stroll on the Singapore waterfront, even posing for grinning selfies with the city-state’s foreign minister.

‘Brighter future

Yet it remains far from clear that Pyongyang is willing to give up its nuclear weapons, which it says it needs to defend itself against a US invasion.

On the eve of the meeting, aides from both sides were still scrambling to narrow yawning differences over “denuclearisation”, which means vastly different things to the two parties.

Participants in a mass rally gather in Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang on September 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / KIM WON-JIN)

Trump, who is due to leave Singapore on Tuesday evening, will use what he says are long-honed instincts to see whether Kim is bluffing, buying time or serious.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States was willing to offer the regime “unique” security guarantees, to “provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation is not something that ends badly for them”.

Kim and Trump will first meet one-on-one in a closed session, before a larger meeting with key advisers, US officials said.

But Pompeo signaled that the summit was likely to be the start of a longer process of negotiation, and warned the United States would not be “duped”, with nothing less than complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation considered.

AP contributed to this report

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