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By Raju Gopalakrishnan and Soyoung Kim
SINGAPORE, June 10 (Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un landed in Singapore on Sunday ahead of a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump that could end a nuclear stand-off between the old foes and transform his secretive, impoverished country

When Trump and Kim meet on the resort island of Sentosa on Tuesday they will be making history even before they start.

Enemies since the 1950-53 Korean War, the leaders of North Korea and the United States have never met previously – or even spoken on the phone.

 

A worker of a media center for the summit between the U.S and North Korea shows fans featuring the images of U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which provided for journalists in a media kit at the media center in Singapore
A worker of a media center for the summit between the U.S and North Korea shows fans featuring the images of U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which provided for journalists in a media kit at the media center in Singapore, June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

 

Kim arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport after his longest trip overseas as head of state wearing his trademark dark Maoist suit and distinctive high cut hairstyle.

He was greeted by Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, who posted a picture on Twitter of him shaking hands with Kim and the message: “Welcomed Chairman Kim Jong Un, who has just arrived in Singapore”.

Believed to be 34, portly and baby-faced, Kim is one of the youngest heads of state in the world and looks an unlikely candidate to be making history of the kind that has eluded his father and grandfather, both past leaders of North Korea.

 

A TV news reports about U.S. President Donald Trump is projected on tv sets at a media center for the summit between the U.S and North Korea in Singapore
A TV news reports about U.S. President Donald Trump is projected on tv sets at a media center for the summit between the U.S and North Korea in Singapore, June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

 

But since taking power in 2011 on his father’s death, the youthful Kim has displayed a mixture of ruthlessness, pragmatism and statecraft to get this prize – to sit across the table with the leader of the United States and be treated as an equal.

The two countries were on the brink of war last year, with their leaders trading insults and threats, until Kim made a dramatic offer in March to meet Trump and discuss nuclear disarmament, which the American president quickly accepted.

Kim’s journey from international pariah to being regarded as a responsible head of state has taken just a few months.

 

A vehicle believed to be carrying North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un travels past in Singapore
A vehicle believed to be carrying North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un travels past in Singapore June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

 

After inheriting a nuclear programme that was fitful and making little progress, Kim poured socialist North Korea’s limited money into developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the United States.

North Korea announced it had achieved that capability late last year. Although unproved, the claim carried enough credence for Washington to take Kim more seriously.

On Thursday, Trump dangled the prospect of normalised relations with the United States, and even a White House visit for Kim if he ditched his nuclear arsenal.

 

 

For Kim, nearly 40 years Trump’s junior and representing the third generation of North Korea’s ruling dynasty, the summit affords both him and his long-isolated country the international legitimacy his father and grandfather could only dream of.

Trump said he and Kim could even sign an agreement to end the Korean War, which was concluded only with a truce, not a peace treaty.

 

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