Home / Observatory / Politics / Trump And Kim: Us And North Korean Leaders Make History


In a historic turn of events at a luxury hotel on Singapore's Sentosa island, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un became the first sitting US president and North Korean leader to meet, shaking each other's hands before proceeding to talks.

Mr Trump patted Mr Kim's arm as they stood on the red carpet, exchanging a few words. Engaging the gathered press, Mr Trump said, "I feel really great. We're going to have a great discussion and will be tremendously successful".

The two men spoke for around 38 minutes, accompanied only by their interpreters before they were then joined by a few of their of advisors for a working lunch.

The Washington contingent included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and security adviser John Bolton, Pyongyang's group was represented by foreign minister Ri Yong-ho and Mr Kim's "right-hand man", former spy chief Kim Yong-Chol.

After the summit the leaders signed a "comprehensive" document, promising a new relationship between the nations as well as a commitment to build "a stable and lasting peace" on the Korean peninsula.

At a signing ceremony with the North Korean leader, Mr Trump said, "I think both sides will be very impressed with the result," mentioning a "special bond" with Mr Kim, saying he was "absolutely" willing to invite him to the White House.

Mr Kim said, "We've decided to leave the past behind, the world will see major changes."

The discussion was around defusing tensions and nuclear disarmament but analysts remain divided on what the summit will ultimately achieve, saying the agreement is vague and lacking in detail. Some see it as a propaganda win for Mr Kim, others a potential path to peace.

The document commits North Korea to work towards "the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and promises "new relations" between Washington and Pyongyang.

The US is pushing for the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation" but there is no mention of how this process will happen. Neither is there a timeframe for North Korea to disarm or any invitation for weapons inspectors to be allowed in.

The US has said it will provide North Korea with security guarantees but has not specified what that entails. If it involves the removal of some American troops from South Korea, then it could potentially result in a treaty to end the near 70-year Korean war.

In an effort to build the relationship and focus on "lasting peace' the two leaders promised to hold follow up talks.

How did this unfold?

Less than a year ago, the two leaders had a war of words, with Mr Trump threatening to unleash "fire and fury" if Pyongyang kept threatening the US, Mr Kim's response was to call the US President "mentally deranged" and a "dotard".

North Korea conducted several ballistic missile tests in defiance of the international community.

Then came the Winter Olympics and the warming of relations between the Koreas, who are technically still at war, united as one for the Games. North Korea showed a new openness to diplomacy, which culminated with a historic leaders' summit in April. It was shortly after this that President Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Mr Kim.

Although there were threats from both east and west to cancel in the preceding month, tensioned eased and a site unimaginable just a couple months ago took place – the two leaders walking towards each other and firmly gripping each other's hands in front of US and North Korean flags.

Mr Kim said, "It was not easy to get here, there were obstacles but we overcame them to be here".

"That's true," was Mr Trump's response.

It is likely that Mr Trump's narrative for any outcome of the talks will be credited to his tightened economic sanctions and threatened military action, his "maximum pressure" campaign, on North Korea.

Mr Kim will be content with the fact that, unlike his father or grandfather, he secured a meeting the US leader, seeing it as a victory for his legitimacy as leader in the eyes of his subjects.

On Tuesday, North Korea's official newspaper featured images of Mr Kim touring Singapore's tourist sites on its front page, waving to excited crowds and taking a selfie with the city state's foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan – a sight completely at odds with their daily life.

He caused quite a stir with his surprise evening tour, leaving many gobsmacked residents and tourists in his wake. It's the furthest he's travelled since taking power in late 2011, so why not.

The US president said more details would be provided at a press conference later.

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