Trump Kim set for historic summit

By Soyoung Kim and Steve Holland

SINGAPORE, June 11 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump
said on Monday his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim
Jong Un in Singapore could “work out very nicely” as officials
from both countries met to narrow differences on how to end a
nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Kim and Trump arrived in the tropical city-state on Sunday
for the first ever face-to-face meeting by leaders of two
countries that have been enemies since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

With gaps remaining over what denuclearisation would entail,
officials from both sides held two hours of talks to push the
agenda forward ahead of Tuesday’s summit.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that
the meetings were “substantive and detailed” but there was no
immediate word on what the outcome was.

Trump sounded a positive note in a lunch meeting with
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular
tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely,”
Trump said.

He also told Lee: “We appreciate your hospitality and
professionalism and friendship…You’re my friend.”

Lobster bisque, beef tenderloin and ice cream were on the
lunch menu, and there was also an early birthday cake for Trump,
who turns 72 on Thursday.

Kim remained ensconced in the heavily guarded St. Regis
Hotel where he is staying. There was also no sign of his sister,
Kim Yo Jong, who has accompanied him to Singapore.

Some people were grumbling in the wealthy city-state because
of the traffic jams caused by the summit and the cost of hosting
two leaders with massive security needs. Lee has said the summit
would cost Singapore about 20 million Singapore dollars ($15
million), more than half of which would go on security.

“Thanks PM Lee for spending $20 million of taxpayers money,
which can … help a lot of needy families in Singapore to
survive,” posted one Facebook user. Others complained about the
jams in downtown Singapore.

Lee said the cost was worthwhile.

“It is our contribution to an international endeavour which
is in our profound interest,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Trump and Kim are staying in separate hotels in the famous
Orchard Road area of Singapore, dotted with high-rise luxury
apartment blocks, offices and glittering shopping malls. Traffic
was held up in the steamy midday sun and scores of bystanders
were penned in by police when Trump went to meet Lee.

Similar scenes were seen on Sunday when Kim and Trump
arrived in the city, and when Kim went to meet Lee. Entry to
their hotels is extremely restricted.

“NEW ERA”

Commenting for the first time on the summit, North Korea’s
state-run KCNA news agency earlier said the two sides would
exchange “wide-ranging and profound views” to re-set relations.
It heralded the summit as part of a “changed era”.

Discussions would focus on “the issue of building a
permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean
peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the
Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern,” KCNA said.

In the lead up to the summit, North Korea rejected any
unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to
denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant that
Pyongyang wants the United States to remove its “nuclear
umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.

Pompeo said in an earlier tweet that Washington was
“committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible
denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Many experts on North Korea, one of the most insular and
unpredictable countries in the world, remain sceptical Kim will
ever completely abandon nuclear weapons. They believe Kim’s
latest engagement is aimed at getting the United States to ease
the crippling sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished
country.

A Trump administration official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said the U.S. side was entering the talks with a
sense of optimism and an equal dose of scepticism given North
Korea’s long history of developing nuclear weapons.

“We will not be surprised by any scenario,” said the
official.

The official said Trump and Kim would hold a one-on-one
meeting on Tuesday that could last up to two hours. He described
it as a “get to know you plus” meeting.

Later, a meeting including officials could last another
hour.

The summit’s venue is the Capella hotel on Sentosa, a resort
island off Singapore’s port with luxury hotels, a Universal
Studios theme park and man-made beaches.

‘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.

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.
($1 = 1.3336 Singapore dollars)

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Dewey Sim, Aradhana
Aravindan, Joyce Lee, Grace Lee, Matt Spetalnick, David
Brunnstrom; Christine Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Simon
Cameron-Moore and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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