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Trump touts breakthrough, Kim makes only vague vow to denuke

By Sheetal Sukhija, The Tokyo News
12 Jun 2018, 20:42 GMT+10

SINGAPORE - The U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sure made history on Tuesday, after they met for the very first time in Singapore - however, most of the world remained focussed on what was achieved at the end of the summit. 

On Tuesday, 71-year-old Trump became the first ever sitting U.S. President to meet a North Korean leader. 

At the other end of the table was 33-year-old Kim Jong Un, for whom, the summit was an opportunity to make a diplomatic debut on the world stage, and be seen as an equal, alongside the President of a developed country.

Both sides have gone back and forth in their plans to proceed with the meeting over the last few weeks and amid the challenges and disagreements, both the leaders have remained optimistic.

On Tuesday, amid a heavy security cover, which included patrolling by Singapore navy vessels, air force Apache helicopters, fighter jets and an Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft - apart from the personal security of both the leaders - the two leaders walked into the Capella hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.

With cautious expressions on their faces, the two leaders exchanged a historic handshake against the backdrop of interspersed American and North Korean flags.

With scores of journalists, photographers, analysts and experts from across the world watching closely, the leaders posed for photographs and then headed to a meeting room where they sat beside each other and addressed the press.

The U.S. President told reporters, "I feel really great. We’re going to have a great discussion and I think tremendous success. It will be tremendously successful. And it’s my honour and we will have a terrific relationship I have no doubt."

Meanwhile, speaking via a translator, Kim Jong Un said, “It was not an easy path here. There's a history of holding onto our ankles (a phrase which means that someone is trying to hold someone else back) and it appeared there were times that there were unfortunate practices where they were trying to block our eyes and our ears, but we've overcome everything and come to this place.”

Trump responded to the leader who is half his age with a thumbs up.

After the brief exchange, Trump and Kim Jong Un made their way to the library at the Capella for their one-on-one private conversation, along with translators and emerged from the room 41 minutes later with broad smiles.

Ignoring questions from journalists waiting outside, the two leaders then headed to attend expanded talks, along with the rest of their official delegations.

The larger bilateral dialogue featured Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton seated alongside Trump.

While Kim Jong Un was accompanied by his top aides, including Kim Yong-chol, believed to be his "right hand man,” along with the foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho and one of the highest-ranking officials in Pyongyang, Ri Su-yong - who has previously held the post of foreign minister.

Trump reportedly told Kim at the meeting that they would work together to solve a problem “that at this point has been unable to be solved.”

He added, “Working together, we will get it taken care of.”

Meanwhile, Kim said that there will be challenges ahead but that he will work with Trump.

He added via the translator, “We overcame all kinds of skepticism and speculations about this summit and I believe that this is good for the peace.”

The optimistic summit was a remarkable change in dynamics from less than a year ago, when Trump was threatening the North Korean leader who he branded “little rocket man” with “fire and fury” and was in turn scorned by Kim as a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard." 

While the Trump administration has been trying to keep summit exceptions from within the country and from other U.S. allies at bay - on Tuesday, not just Asian leaders but the rest of the world watched the summit closely to read beyond what was being said officially.

At the end of the meeting and a work lunch, the two leaders signed an agreement to work together and to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

At the signing ceremony, Trump said, “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, and we have developed a very special bond. This is going to lead to more and more and more."

Soon after, Trump addressed a news conference where he revealed the details of the document that was signed and what the U.S. had offered in exchange for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Trump declared that he Korean conflict "will soon end," adding, “Adversaries can indeed become friends.”

Trump said, the document which was aimed at establishing a lasting "peace regime" on the Korean Peninsula, was "very comprehensive.”

He said that the two sides had committed to hold follow-up negotiations and to cooperate to develop bilateral relations.

Responding to questions on whether the agreement would lead to North Korea's denuclearization, Trump said, “We're starting that process very quickly — very, very quickly."

According to the document, Trump "committed to provide security guarantees" to North Korea, an apparent reference to the authoritarian government's longstanding concern that the ultimate American goal is regime change in Pyongyang.

Further, the document revealed that the two countries committed to establishing new relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

The two nations also agreed to join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

In addition, the two leaders signed to reaffirm the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, North Korea commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The two countries also committed to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Apart from these elements, next week, Pompeo and Bolton, along with other members of the U.S. team will be "getting together" with North Korean officials to follow up and iron out the details of their agreement. 

Trump explained that he and Kim will "probably" need another meeting, but that it hasn't yet been set up.

He even told the assembled media that Kim was a "very worthy, very smart negotiator."

He added, “We had a terrific day and we learned a lot about each other and about our countries. I learned he's a very talented man. I also learned he loves his country very much."

He added later, “He is very talented: Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough — I don't say he was nice.”

At the end of the news conference, Trump told Pompeo, "Mike, our whole team has to get to work and get it completed because, otherwise, we've done a good job, but if you don't get the ball over the goal line, it doesn't mean enough.”

The big declaration came right at the end, when Trump revealed that the U.S. will be stopping the war games it conducts near North Korea.

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula has been a specific demand North Korea has been making for years. 

North Korea has often cited the presence of U.S. troops close to its border as a threat, while accelerating its nuclear program. 

Before that summit, the U.S. administration had tried to steer clear of questions related to withdrawal of its troops from South Korea.

On Tuesday, at the end of the press conference, Trump declared the end of war games in Korea, arguing “that will save us a tremendous amount of money — unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should ... Plus I think it's very provocative."

He also explicitly implied that South Korea doesn't pay enough for those exercises and added, "That's certainly a subject that we have to talk to them about."

More importantly, Trump stressed that he would eventually like to see the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula. 

He clarified that so far, the U.S. had not yet agreed to reduce any military capabilities.

Answering a question on whether North Korea would make real and meaningful moves toward denuclearization after the summit, Trump insisted, "You can't ensure anything. All I can say is they want to make a deal. I know for a — I just feel very strongly, my instinct, my ability or talent, they want to make a deal.”

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