Thursday, 19 July, 2018

US, North Korean Leaders Head for Singapore Summit Site

The menu for a working lunch served to U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and their delegations during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore Trump and Kim make history with a handshake
Nellie Chapman | 12 June, 2018, 09:26

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". There was a past that grabbed our ankles and wrong prejudices and practices that at times covered our eyes and ears. Should they succeed, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, like the visit of former US President Richard Nixon to China in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

Former President Barack Obama was known to occasionally hold impromptu chats with leaders on the sidelines of major global summits, with only their translators at their sides.

Human-rights advocates who lauded Trump when he hosted eight North Korean defectors at the White House days after his State of the Union speech are now uneasy about his engagement with Kim, whom the president recently praised as "very honourable".

The thaw, however temporary, is a far cry from previous year, when Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury" and mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man", and Kim slammed Trump as the "mentally deranged U.S. dotard".

Singapore is reportedly footing the bill for the summit-which will run close to $20 million-and will pay for North Korea's travel expenses.

The two leaders began the meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Singapore time - prime time Monday back in the USA. "We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!" he wrote.

Members of the USA delegation, including U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo, right, and John Bolton, national security adviser, left, and North Korean advisers watch a television screen showing the meeting. He bounced to the Singapore summit after a tempestuous G-7 summit where the United States was isolated from its key European partners as never before and Trump even derided his Canadian host, a paragon of liberal democracy, as "dishonest" and "weak".

It appears to reflect a new confidence among officials in North Korea that the isolated country has really been accepted onto the world stage.

Trump also took a familiar jab at the press during the summit: As reporters yelled questions during the photo op, Trump told Kim, "The press, they never stop".

A hand from the US President on Mr Kim's arm provided some warmth to an exchange being so closely scrutinised around the world. I got so many death threats. Or, it could amount to little more than a much-photographed handshake.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sung Kim, the USA ambassador to the Philippines who has taken the lead on policy negotiations with the North, will hold a "working group" with a North Korean delegation.

"The tweet showed Balakrishnan, Kim and Singapore's education minister Ong Ye Kung smiling broadly at the camera along with the caption: "#jalanjalan #guesswhere?"

Pompeo added the U.S.is "hopeful" the summit will "set the conditions for future productive talks".

He would not say whether that included the possibility of withdrawing US troops from the Korean Peninsula, but said the context of the discussions was "radically different than ever before".

Trump has said he wants to strike a deal to get the North to give up its nuclear weapons.