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Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump to meet today

Leaders’ last-minute preparations are low-key in Singapore
June 12,2018
이미지뷰
Two days before what is being called the summit of the century, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, lands at Changi International Airport and U.S. President Donald Trump, right, lands at an air base in Singapore on Sunday. [YONHAP]
With one day left until their historic meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un underwent low-key final preparations on Monday for their high-stakes summit in Singapore.

A team of diplomats from each side engaged in last-minute, working-level negotiations Monday, on the eve of the first North-U.S. summit, which is set to kick off at 9:00 a.m. today at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s southern resort island of Sentosa.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, a former top nuclear envoy, held a closed-door meeting with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore hotel from 10 a.m. Monday, less than 24 hours before Kim and Trump shake hands.

The two diplomats have held a series of meetings since May 27 in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom to fine-tune details for the summit, indicating signs of continued wrangling over Washington’s demand for the North’s complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID). North Korea, in turn, has been calling for a concept that is being described as the “complete, verifiable, irreversible guarantee (CVIG)” of the security of the Kim regime.

Kim, a former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy and former ambassador to Seoul, was accompanied by officials who joined him during the Panmunjom talks - Allison Hooker, director of Korea for the White House National Security Council, and Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday morning tweeted a photo of an “early pre-brief” breakfast meeting with Sung Kim, ahead of the ambassador’s talks with Choe, and wrote: “We remain committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

His remarks were seen as Washington ramping up pressure on Pyongyang in the final moments before the summit as the two sides were seen to be negotiating what sort of terminology on denuclearization would be included in a joint agreement. An hour later, Pompeo tweeted that he was “proud” to have his State Department team “hard at work,” meeting with the North Korean officials.

Later in the afternoon, Pompeo tweeted two photos, one of Sung Kim in dialogue and one of a smiling Choe Son-hui, and wrote: “Substantive and detailed meetings in #Singapore today.” The message indicated that the final discussions may have gone smoothly.

Pompeo in a briefing to reporters Monday said that “the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept,” and that Trump “recognizes” Kim’s desire for security and economic opportunities.

Both the North Korean and U.S. leaders arrived in Singapore on Sunday, Kim in the afternoon and Trump some six hours later in the evening at around 8:30 p.m.

Unlike Kim, who flew into Changi Airport covertly on an Air China Boeing jet, Trump landed at Singapore’s air base with some 100 reporters awaiting his arrival. Trump flew to the Southeast Asian city-state, departing early from the Group of 7 summit in Quebec, Canada, which ran through Sunday.

Trump’s only public remark as he left Air Force One was that he felt “very good” about his upcoming summit, and headed straight to his lodgings, the Shangri-La Hotel.

Kim is lodging nearby at the St. Regis Hotel, just 10 minutes away by foot from the Shangri-La. Both hotels fall within a special event area designated by Singaporean authorities last week, which took effect from Sunday and lasts through Thursday. Sentosa Island is also a special event area and will be highly restricted for the summit.

Trump appeared in good spirits as he departed the Shangri-La Hotel a little before noon for a luncheon meeting, tweeting: “Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!” Trump had a luncheon meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana presidential palace. Pompeo was seated to Trump’s right at the luncheon, and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to his left.

“We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow,” said Trump on his summit with Kim at the luncheon. “I think things could work out very nicely.”

He went on to thank Lee for his hospitality, professionalism and friendship. They briefly celebrated Trump’s birthday with a cake. The president turns 72 on Thursday.

Prime Minister Lee met separately with North Korean leader Kim Sunday evening at Istana. Lee welcomed Kim to Singapore in their first meeting and discussed Singapore-North Korea relations and the recent positive developments on the Korean Peninsula.

Lee “complimented the bold and admirable decision” by Kim and Trump to come together for the summit, the Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday, and went on to wish Kim success in the upcoming U.S.-North talks. He also “expressed hope” that the meeting “will advance the prospect for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the larger region.” Kim thanked Lee for Singapore’s hosting of the summit and noted that the “entire world is watching the historic summit.”

Earlier Sunday, Lee made a surprise visit to the international media center at the F1 Pit Building to greet thousands of journalists who had flown in to cover the summit, which he said would cost around 20 million Singapore dollars ($15 million). Security accounts for around half that figure, he said. “I think it is a cost which we are willing to pay, and it is our contribution to an international endeavor which is in our profound interest,” said Lee.

He said it is important that the meeting takes place and “has a positive outcome,” and “sets developments on a new trajectory, and one which would be conducive to the security and the stability of the region.”

Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met on Monday with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, who was part of leader Kim Jong-un’s delegation in Singapore for the summit. The previous day, Balakrishnan greeted both Kim and Trump upon their separate arrivals in the Southeast Asian nation.

Balakrishnan last week visited Washington, where he met with U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Pyongyang, where he met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of state who serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Balakrishnan later held a phone conversation with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, briefing her on his Pyongyang visit, Kim Jong-un’s meeting with his prime minister and the summit situation.

Kim’s schedule for Monday was not made public, but there were reports he may visit several facilities showcasing Singapore’s economic advancement, with a van of his security guards on standby outside his hotel that afternoon.

The North Korean leader’s entourage to Singapore also included his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, first vice director of the Central Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, who accompanied him on both inter-Korean summits in April and in May and is seen as his closest aide, and Defense Minister No Kwang-chol.

The Associated Press reported Monday citing a U.S. official on the condition of anonymity that the two leaders were expected to meet Tuesday one-on-one, accompanied only by interpreters, for up to two hours before their advisers joined them.

While there had been some speculation that the summit may last more than one day, Reuters reported Sunday that leader Kim is scheduled to depart Singapore at 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday, citing a source who is involved in the planning of his visit who asked for anonymity. But the departure plan is tentative, said the source.

However, a source in Singapore familiar with the process of the North-U.S. summit told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday that Kim invited Trump to Pyongyang next month to hold a second round of talks.

“North Korea and the United States through various contacts made in New York, Panmunjom and Singapore made possible for the summit to be held on June 12,” said the source. “It appears the North and U.S. have also shared the notion of holding additional summits during this process.”

Kim Jong-un’s letter to Trump, delivered in person by Kim Yong-chol, the vice chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, during his visit to the White House on June 1 contained such an invitation, according to the source.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]