Tuesday 12 June 2018

Trumps says ‘we have developed a very special bond’ at end of historic meeting

President Trump warmly greeted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un here Tuesday and vowed to forge a new partnership, reversing decades of U.S. policy toward the rogue authoritarian regime in an extraordinary gamble that his personal attention would help break a cycle of nuclear brinkmanship and stave off a military confrontation.

In a historic meeting at Singapore’s secluded and opulent Capella resort, Kim called the nuclear disarmament summit with Trump a “big prelude to peace” and vowed, “I’m willing to do this.”

“We will solve this,” Trump responded, “and we will be successful.”

After more than four hours of meetings, the two leaders sat beside each other and signed what Trump called a “very comprehensive” agreement setting the path forward, but did not say whether it contains a specific pledge by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

“We are starting that process very quickly. Very, very quickly,” Trump said when asked whether Kim had agree to the process of denuclearization.

The document was not immediately released.

“We are very proud of what took place today,” Trump said before he and Kim shook hands a final time. “I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past. We both want to do something, we both are going to do something. We have developed a very special bond.”

Trump added: “We are going to take care of a very big and a very dangerous problem for the world.”

Kim thanked Trump for making the summit happen.

“Today we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said through an interpreter. “The whole world will see a great change.”

Neither leader was specific about what the next step would be, although Trump said he would “absolutely” invite Kim to the White House.

“This is going to lead to more and more and more,” Trump said.

But beneath the remarkable images from the Capella was the thornier reality that the two sides remained divided on crucial issues and a path forward on a denuclearization plan, which could take years to complete and would probably face significant stumbling blocks along the way.

Ahead of the meeting, U.S. officials had said that if the session went well it would yield a series of more detailed discussions about ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons in exchange for economic benefits and security assurances.

The two leaders began meeting shortly after 9 a.m. local time, approaching one another from opposite wings on a stage with a red carpet and a row of alternating U.S. and North Korean flags. They shook hands and held their grip before turning to face a small group of journalists for images to be beamed rapidly around the world, both men maintaining serious expressions.

The president motioned to Kim to leave the stage, and the two men retreated into a private chamber to meet one on one, joined only by their interpreters, with the aim of establishing a rapport before the more technical nuclear arms negotiations.

The unprecedented greeting between the unorthodox leader of the world’s richest and most powerful nation and the brutal ruler of the most isolated and repressive would have been considered almost unimaginable just months ago as Trump, 71, and Kim, 34, traded threats and personal insults. Never before had a sitting U.S. president met with a ruling Kim family patriarch, as previous White Houses refused to validate the regime amid its nuclear provocations and human rights abuses.

During the expanded meeting, Trump was flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. Kim was joined by Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, who had visited Trump at the White House two weeks earlier.

Later in the day, after a formal seated luncheon, Trump continued to strike a positive tone.

“It’s going great. We had a really fantastic meeting, lot of progress,” Trump told reporters as he and Kim walked together at the resort. “Really very positive. I think better than anybody could have expected, top of the line. Really good.”

Trump then walked Kim over to his armored presidential limousine. A Secret Service agent held a door open so Kim could peer inside “the Beast.”

In the days before the meeting, with negotiators struggling to reach a basic agreement, Trump and his aides sought to lower expectations about how quickly the administration could persuade Pyongyang to begin dismantling its weapons arsenal. Details on whether the North would agree to a specific time frame and regular international inspections of its progress, as well as what benefits the United States was offering in return, were not immediately disclosed.

Other major issues appeared to remain unresolved, including North Korea’s brutal human rights record, which Trump had lambasted last year after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who had been held captive in the North for 17 months and then released in a coma.

The question for Trump and Kim, who was taking a gamble of his own, was whether their risky encounter would produce a historic breakthrough to ease tensions, or would collapse and leave Kim emboldened and American influence weakened on the global stage.

“The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “We have our hostages, testing, research and all missle launches have stoped, and these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say! We will be fine!”

Trump, who delights in challenging conventional wisdom, seized on the chance to do what other presidents could not and, despite having taken office with scant geopolitical experience, quickly elevated the escalating North Korea threat to his top foreign policy priority. As Pyongyang demonstrated rapidly sophisticated proficiency in its nuclear arsenal, Trump oversaw a tightening of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Pyongyang — only to leap in March at Kim’s offer to meet, despite warnings from former U.S. officials that he was moving too quickly and rewarding the regime for its bad behavior.

At 8:53 a.m., a black stretch Mercedes sedan bearing North Korean flags pulled up to the Capella. Kim stepped out in a traditional black Mao suit and quickly entered the building. Trump followed six minutes later, emerging from the presidential limousine in a dark suit and red power tie, and with an impassive stare.

At 9:04 a.m., they strode toward each other and, as they shook hands, Trump patted Kim’s right shoulder with his left hand.

It was the moment of truth for Trump, who last week boasted that he would use his “touch” and his “feel” as a seasoned dealmaker to size up the leader of the world’s most opaque regime and determine within the first minute whether he was serious about making a deal.

Seated next to Kim ahead of the private meeting, Trump said: “It’s my honor, and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.”

Kim spoke in Korean of “the old prejudices” that have hampered relations. “But we’ve overcome all of them, and we are here today,” he said.

But it was unclear whether the president and the North Korean leader could realistically reach any concrete agreements in just one day of talks.

Wide gaps remained between the North Korean and U.S. interpretations of what verification means. And the Trump administration insisted that it would not ease economic sanctions until North Korea’s denuclearization was complete. But Pompeo told reporters a day before the summit that the administration was prepared to provide security assurances unlike any that previous administrations have offered.

Trump and his team vowed Monday that the United States would not repeat past missteps. Deals reached between Washington and Pyongyang under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama collapsed after North Korea conducted additional missile and nuclear tests.

“The United States has been fooled before — there’s no doubt about it,” Pompeo told reporters Monday. “Despite any past flimsy agreements, the president will ensure no potential agreement fails to adequately address the North Korean threat.”

On his final day before meeting Kim, Trump sought to consolidate support from key allies, speaking by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have been in close coordination with the White House for months.

It was Moon’s outreach to Kim around the Winter Olympics, which were held in South Korea in February, that launched a flurry of diplomatic engagements that culminated in the Trump-Kim summit.

At a cabinet meeting in Seoul on Tuesday, Moon said he was so excited that he had had trouble sleeping. “I join all the people in ardently aspiring for the success of the summit to bring complete denuclearization and peace to us and usher in a new era among the two Koreas and the United States,” Moon said.

At Seoul’s main train station, travelers applauded as they watched the handshake between Kim and Trump on a big TV screen.

“I am hopeful now that hostilities will die down,” said Lim Sung-gyu, a 24-year-old college student who is waiting to do his South Korean military service.

For Kim, the young heir to power who has sought to bolster his claims of legitimacy by establishing himself as an equal to the U.S. president, the summit was viewed as a victory no matter the outcome.

While Trump spent the day before the summit meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who feted him with a birthday cake in honor of his 72nd birthday Thursday, it was Kim who stole the spotlight with a surprise nighttime tour of Singapore’s gleaming waterfront skyline Monday night.

He toured the Marina Bay Sands, a complex of three towers with a huge boat-shaped structure on top that includes a hotel and casino; strolled along the architecturally stunning Jubilee Bridge; and even posed for a selfie with Singapore’s foreign minister.

The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, on Tuesday morning filled its front page with photos of Kim’s tour, published less than 10 hours after it happened — a rapid turnaround for the heavily regulated state media.

For Kim, it was a remarkable show that he, like Trump, is intent on upending the status quo. He flashed a big smile and appeared to revel in the global spotlight and the cheers of onlookers — and, perhaps, envisioned the kind of glittering future his country could have if it opened up to the outside world.

(Source: WP)

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