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Wednesday 22 August 2018

North Korea’s Kim lands in Singapore ahead of high-stakes Trump summit

Kim Jong Un’s every move will be followed by 3,000 journalists who have converged on Singapore ahead of the meeting with the US president on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Singapore (Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore via AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Singapore (Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore via AP)

By Foster Klug, Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has arrived in Singapore ahead of a summit with US President Donald Trump meant to settle a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear bomb arsenal.

A jet carrying Mr Kim landed on Sunday afternoon local time amid huge security precautions on the city-state island.

After shaking hands with the Singapore foreign minister, Mr Kim sped through the city’s streets in a large limousine, two North Korean flags fluttering on the bonnet, surrounded by other black vehicles with tinted windows and bound for the luxurious and heavily guarded St Regis Hotel.

Mr Trump is scheduled to arrive later on Sunday.

The North Korean autocrat’s every move will be followed by 3,000 journalists who have converged on Singapore up until he shakes hands with Mr Trump on Tuesday.

It is a reflection of the intense global curiosity over Mr Kim’s sudden turn to diplomacy in recent months after a series of North Korean nuclear and missile tests last year raised serious fears of war.

The North, many experts believe, stands on the brink of being able to target the entire US mainland with its nuclear-armed missiles, and while there is deep scepticism that Mr Kim will quickly give up those hard-won nuclear weapons, there is also some hope that diplomacy can replace the animosity between the US and the North.

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The North Korean motorcade in Singapore (Joseph Nair/AP)

Part of the interest in Tuesday’s summit is simply a reflection of Mr Kim’s limited appearances on the world stage.

He has only publicly left his country three times since taking power after his father’s death in late 2011 – twice travelling to China and once across his shared border with the South to the southern part of the Demilitarised Zone in recent summits with the leaders of China and South Korea respectively.

But it is Mr Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons that gives his meeting with Mr Trump such high stakes.

The meeting was initially meant to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, but the talks have been portrayed by Mr Trump in recent days more as a get-to-know-you session.

Mr Trump has also raised the possibility of further summits and an agreement ending the Korean War by replacing the armistice signed in 1953 with a peace treaty.

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Members of the media take photos and video of police patrolling Orchard Road in Singapore (Yong Teck Lim/AP)

China and South Korea would have to sign off on any legal treaty.

It is unclear what Mr Trump and Mr Kim might decide on Tuesday.

Pyongyang has said it is willing to deal away its entire nuclear arsenal if the United States provides it with a reliable security assurance and other benefits.

But many say this is highly unlikely, given how hard it has been for Mr Kim to build his programme and that the weapons are seen as the major guarantee to holding on to his unchecked power.

Any nuclear deal will hinge on North Korea’s willingness to allow unfettered outside inspections of the country’s warheads and nuclear fuel, much of which is probably kept in a vast complex of underground facilities.

Past nuclear deals have crumbled over North Korea’s reluctance to open its doors to outsiders.

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Police officers stand guard at a roadblock outside the St Regis Hotel (Yong Teck Lim/AP)

Another possibility from the summit is a deal to end the Korean War, which North Korea has long demanded, presumably in part to get US troops off the Korean Peninsula and, eventually, pave the way for a North Korean-led unified Korea.

The fighting ended on July 27 1953, but the war technically continues today because instead of a difficult-to-negotiate peace treaty, military officers for the US-led United Nations, North Korea and China signed an armistice that halted the fighting.

The North may see a treaty – and its presumed safety assurances from Washington – as its best way of preserving the Kim family dynasty.

The ensuing recognition as a “normal country” could then allow sanctions relief, and later international aid and investment.

Just meeting with Mr Trump will also give Mr Kim a recognition North Korea has long sought, setting him up as a global player and equal to the US domestically and, internationally, as the leader of a “normal country” worthy of respect.

Press Association

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