President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met face-to-face for the first time in Singapore Tuesday, June 12th for what is arguably one of the most highly anticipated and consequential diplomatic meetings in a century.
Both leaders first emerged at 9:03 a.m. local time, walking along a bright red carpet from separate sides of a staging location at the Capella Hotel resort on Sentosa Island to shake hands with a backdrop of U.S. and North Korean flags. The two posed for pictures briefly before walking over to an awning and appeared quite cordial in their greeting, both smiling as they shook hands.
“I feel really great,” Trump said. “We’re going to have a great discussion, I think, a tremendous success, this will be tremendously successful. It’s my honor and we will have a terrific relationship I have no doubt.”
Kim smiled as he heard the translator interpret the president’s remarks, before weighing in with a brief statement of his own. “Past practices and prejudices were obstacles on our way forward, but we overcame all of them and are here today,” Kim said.
While the president has more recently sought to temper expectations of what he may be able to achieve with the summit, he has also said the interaction amounts to a crucial test in determining whether Kim is genuine in committing to rid his country of its nuclear program.
“I think things could work out very nicely,” Trump said in a Tuesday meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The meeting marks the first ever meeting between a sitting North Korean leader and a U.S. president. U.S. officials have said a best case scenario would be that it serves as a launching pad for negotiations that would provide Kim with physical security and his closed off nation with economic assurances in exchange for irreversibly dismantling his country’s nuclear capabilities.
Posing for photographs, Mr. Trump put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. Then the two, alone except for their interpreters, walked off to meet privately in an attempt to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program. “I feel really great,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to have a great discussion and a terrific relationship.”
Mr. Kim said: “It was not easy to get here. There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”
Whether they will succeed is, of course, highly questionable. Their negotiators failed to make much headway in working-level meetings beforehand, leaving Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim with little common ground ahead of what could be months or even years of talks.
But this is a negotiation that follows no known playbook: Two headstrong men — one 34 years old, the other 71; products of wealth and privilege, but with lives so unlike each other that they could be from different planets — coming together to search for a deal that eluded their predecessors.
“I just think it’s going to work out very nicely,” Mr. Trump said on Monday, with the confident tone he has used from the moment in March when he accepted Mr. Kim’s invitation to meet.
Even as he spoke, American and North Korean diplomats were struggling in a last-minute negotiation to bridge gaps on some of the most basic issues dividing the two sides, including the terms and timing under which the North would surrender its nuclear arsenal.