span style="font-size:16px">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 sought to narrow differences on how to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.
Kim, one of the world’s most reclusive leaders, made an evening tour of sites on Singapore’s waterfront, on the eve of the summit that is due to get underway on Tuesday morning at a nearby resort island.
While Trump was optimistic about prospects for the summit between the old foes, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo injected a note of caution ahead of the first-ever meeting of sitting U.S. and North Korean leaders, saying it remained to be seen whether Kim was sincere about his willingness to denuclearize.
Officials from the two sides held last-minute talks aimed at laying the groundwork for a meeting that was almost unthinkable just months ago when the two leaders were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.
But after a flurry of diplomatic overtures eased tension in recent months, the two leaders are now headed for a history-making handshake that U.S. officials hope could eventually lead to the dismantling of a North Korean nuclear program that threatens the United States.
Offering a preview to reporters, Pompeo said it could provide “an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our relationship and bring peace and prosperity” to North Korea.
However, he played down the possibility of a quick breakthrough and said the summit should set the framework for “the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.
North Korea, though, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim’s dynastic rule.
His first stop was a waterfront park with futuristic installations, Gardens by the Bay, which boasts the largest glass greenhouse and tallest indoor waterfall in the world.
He joined Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, who took a selfie, before stopping at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which resembles a giant surfboard perched on three tall columns, for a look out over the bright lights of the city from its rooftop garden and swimming pool.
On the way back to his hotel, Kim walked along a promenade near the Merlion, a giant statue, and fountain, of a mythical creature, half lion, half fish - Singapore’s unofficial mascot.
The rare public appearance of Kim, waving and smiling to onlookers, adds to the more affable image of the young leader that has emerged since his summit in April with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.
Just a few months ago, Kim was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and scores of officials suspected of disloyalty.
Former U.S. National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman arrived in Singapore late on Monday for the summit, saying he was “excited to be part of it”, although there has been no indication he would be involved in any official talks.
“It should go fairly well, but people should not expect so much for the first time,” Rodman told reporters at the airport. (With additional report from Reuters)