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Stage set for historic Trump-Kim summit in Singapore

On the eve of the summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island, Trump hoped that a “nice” outcome could be reached from what he said would be a “very interesting meeting” with Kim on Tuesday. Later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the preparatory talks were “moving quite rapidly” and he expected them to reach what he called “a logical conclusion” even earlier than the US anticipated.

“A complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea is the only outcome that the US will accept at the summit,” Pompeo told reporters at a press conference. He said the US is willing to offer North Korea “unique” security guarantees that are “fundamentally different from before” to achieve denuclearisation.

“We will take actions to provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation is not something that ends badly for them,” Pompeo said. However, sanctions on North Korea will remain until that has been achieved, he said.

“President Trump believes that Kim has an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our relationship and bring peace and prosperity to his country,” Pompeo said. “The fact that our two leaders are sitting down face-to-face is a sign of the enormous potential to accomplish something that will immensely benefit both of our peoples and the entire world,” he said.

He said previous American administrations have been duped by North Korea but the Trump Administration has got experts on non-proliferation and Weapons of Mass Destruction on the ground to verify Pyongyang’s willingness to denuclearise.

Pompeo said President Trump is fully prepared for the meeting with Kim. National Security Council spokesman Robert Palladino said President Trump intends to meet one on one with Kim. “We can expect a one on one at the beginning,” Palladino said.

The diplomats from the two sides are engaged in hectic parleys behind closed doors to narrow their differences. Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea who has been leading the US in talks with North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui since last month, is said to be continuing the discussions with his counterpart. The summit could lay the groundwork for ending a nuclear stand-off between the two countries and see Pyongyang dismantle its arsenal in return for economic help and security guarantees.

A peace treaty ending the 1950-53 Korean War may also be on the table. North and South Koreas remain technically at war as the conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. “Wide-ranging and profound views on the issue of establishing new DPRK-US relations, 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, as required by the changed era, will be exchanged at the DPRK-US summit talks,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in English.

Both Trump and Kim separately met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and thanked him for hosting the summit as if it was “their own family affair”. “If the summit produces positive outcomes, then the Singaporean government’s effort will be recorded in history forever,” Kim said.

The summit – the first between a sitting US president and the North Korean leader – will mark a turnaround of relations between Trump and Kim after a long-running exchange of furious threats and insults. The two leaders have had an extraordinary up-and-down relationship over the past 18 months.

Trump had called Kim “Little Rocket Man” and threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea as it conducted several ballistic missile tests in defiance of international warnings. In return, Kim called Trump “mentally deranged” and a “dotard”.

North Korea had also threatened to strike Guam, an American territory in the Pacific Ocean. The North Korean leadership, including Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui has also taunted Washington, calling Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy.”

In March, Trump surprised the world by accepting an invitation from Kim to meet in person. But last month, Trump abruptly cancelled the Singapore summit, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” by Pyongyang. However, he took a U-turn soon and said the White House was proceeding with the preparations for the summit.

Ahead of his much-anticipated meeting with Kim, the US president sounded optimistic and said the meeting would be a “one-time shot” at peace. “I feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people. And he has that opportunity, and he won’t have that opportunity again,” Trump said.

Ahead of the summit meet with the US President, the North Korean leader on Sunday held bilateral talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana.

Singapore, the host country for the summit, has expressed optimism that the meeting between the two leaders will alleviate tensions in the region. It will spend about 20 million dollars to host the historic summit between Trump and Kim, which is being covered by nearly 3,000 journalists from across the world.

Singapore is one of the few countries that have diplomatic relations with both the US and North Korea. It has been used before for high-profile diplomatic occasions. In 2015, the leaders of China and Taiwan held historic talks in the city-state – their first in more than 60 years.

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