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By Steve Holland and Jack Kim
SINGAPORE (Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday for a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that could lay the groundwork for ending a nuclear stand-off between the old foes and the transformation of the isolated Asian nation

Trump flew into Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base aboard Air Force One, looking to strike a deal that will lead to the denuclearisation of one of America’s bitterest foes. He came from a divisive G7 meeting in Canada with some of Washington’s closest allies that further strained global trade ties.

After stepping down from Air Force One on a steamy tropical night, Trump was greeted by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

 

The vehicle carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way to the Istana in Singapore
The vehicle carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way to the Istana in Singapore June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

 

Asked by a reporter how he felt about the summit, Trump said: “Very good”.

North Korea’s Kim landed in Singapore earlier on Sunday.

When Trump and Kim meet on Tuesday at Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore’s port with a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches, they will be making history.

 

People take photos with their mobile phones along Orchard Road as the motorcade of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way to the Istana in Singapore
People take photos with their mobile phones along Orchard Road as the motorcade of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way to the Istana in Singapore June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Tim Chong

 

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

Kim arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport after his longest trip overseas as head of state, wearing his trademark dark “Mao suit” and distinctive high-cut hairstyle. He has not left his country since taking office in 2011 other than to visit China and the South Korean side of the border Demilitarised Zone.

 

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walks with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un walks with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

 

Arriving on a plane loaned by China, which for decades has been North Korea’s only major ally, Kim was also greeted by Balakrishnan.

Travelling with him were top officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Kim Yong Chol, a close aide of Kim who has been instrumental in the diplomacy that culminated in Tuesday’s summit.

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Singapore, June 10, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. SINGAPORE’S MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION/via REUTERS

 

Kim Yo Jong, leader Kim’s younger sister, was also spotted in his delegation. She emerged as an influential figure in Pyongyang’s opaque leadership in February, when she led a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Officials who arrived with Trump include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

 

The vehicle carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves the Istana, after a meeting with Singapore¡¯s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in Singapore
The vehicle carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves the Istana, after a meeting with Singapore¡¯s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in Singapore June 10, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

 

Bolton’s hardline rhetoric last month infuriated North Korea and nearly derailed the summit. He called for North Korea to follow a “Libya model” in negotiations. Libya unilaterally surrendered its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed in 2011 by NATO-backed rebels.

 

‘SPUR OF THE MOMENT’

Trump, speaking in Canada on Saturday, said any agreement at the summit would be “spur of the moment,” underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a “mission of peace”.

He initially touted the potential for a grand bargain with North Korea to rid itself of a nuclear missile programme that has advanced rapidly to threaten the United States.

 

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gestures towards the media as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un at the Istana in Singapore
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gestures towards the media as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at the Istana in Singapore June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

 

But he has since lowered expectations, backing away from an original demand for North Korea’s swift denuclearisation.

He has said the talks would be more about starting a relationship with Kim for a negotiating process that would take more than one summit.

On Monday, North Korean state media said Kim and Trump would discuss a “permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism” on the Korean peninsula, denuclearisation of the peninsula and other issues of mutual concern.

 

 

Kim was accompanied by his defence minister, No Kwang Chol, the North’s KCNA added.

Non-proliferation expert Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, said that to make the summit a success, Trump and Kim would need to agree on a framework for expert-level negotiations “to hammer out the details and time frame for specific action-for-action steps”.

 

Keep reading …

 

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