Excitement high, expectations lower as Trump and Kim set to meet

14 Juin, 2018, 03:47 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
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Beyond the impact on both leaders' political fortunes, the summit could shape the fate of countless people - the citizens of impoverished North Korea, the tens of millions living in the shadow of the North's nuclear threat, and millions more worldwide. But in the hours before the summit, the White House unexpectedly announced Trump would depart Singapore earlier than expected - Tuesday evening - raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back.

Although gaps remain over what denuclearisation would entail, Trump sounded a positive note in a lunch meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee.

The morning began in a breathtaking moment that signaled bygones may truly be bygones: Trump and Kim shook hands and signaled a shared optimism about their summit Tuesday morning local time in Singapore.

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 honorable".

"Why would Kim... believe any commitments President Trump makes when he arbitrarily tears up an agreement with which the other party is complying?" said Antony Blinken, who was deputy secretary of state under Barack Obama.

The US wants North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons in an irreversible manner that can be verified by the global community. Carrying with them hopes to end seven decades of hostility and the threat of a nuclear confrontation, the meeting between the two firebrand leaders will be watched closely by people across the world.

The Trump administration has promised not to seek to bring about regime change and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has even floated the possibility of issuing security guarantees to the North.

The eccentric former reality television star is one of the few westerners to have spent time with Kim during multiple visits to Pyongyang and the two struck up an unlikely friendship over their shared love of basketball. The official cautioned, however, that the schedule could always change if meeting goes well and there is more to discuss.

Trump was the first to arrive at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore's port with luxury hotels, a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches. island, a resort.

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He added: "North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearise and we are eager to see if those words prove honest".

North Korea has said it is willing to commit to denuclearisation, but it is unclear how this will be achieved or what might be requested in return. It was an extraordinarily compressed timeline for the landmark summit, one that left aides scrambling to initiate communication with the hermit nation.

The sides first spoke through intelligence channels, with U.S. analysts working to determine Kim's true willingness to abandon a nuclear program started by his grandfather and viewed by Pyongyang as a security blanket from outside aggressors.

KCNA's coverage also highlighted Mr Kim's late-night stroll in Singapore, and said the leader was impressed by a "nocturnal bird's eye view" from the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, where a SkyPark links three 55-storey towers. NPR's Elise Hu joins us now from Singapore.

A sit-down with the U.S. president is something North Korea has long pushed for.

More than 2,500 journalists have convened here, with each leader's every movement tracked carefully. Later in the day, he met with senior advisers and phoned the leaders of Japan and South Korea.

Critics of the summit leapt at the leaders' handshake and the moonlight stroll Kim took Monday night along the glittering Singapore waterfront, saying it was further evidence that Trump was helping legitimize Kim on the world stage as an equal of the USA president.

For the first time since the division of the Korean Peninsula, the leaders of the two countries held a summit in June 2000.

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