SINGAPORE, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were meeting in Singapore on Tuesday, a historic opportunity to peacefully end the North Korean nuclear threat.
The summit began at 9 a.m. on the resort island of Sentosa against the backdrop of the North's nuclear capability that Trump has vowed never to allow to hold the United States hostage.
The two leaders walked toward each other at the Capella Hotel in front of a row of their countries' flags.
They shook hands and posed for photographers. Kim said in English, "Nice to meet you, Mr. President."
After walking down a colonnade with only their translators behind them, the two entered a meeting room for the first-ever sit-down between the leaders of the Korean War adversaries and the culmination of a monthslong flurry of diplomacy pushed in large part by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
"We're going to have a great discussion, and I think tremendous success," Trump said with Kim next to him. "And it's my honor, and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt."
Kim acknowledged it wasn't an easy path to the meeting.
"We have a past that is holding us down and wrong prejudices and practices that at times covered our eyes and ears, but we overcame everything to come this far," he said in Korean.
The two held a 45-minute one-on-one meeting and then moved to expanded bilateral talks involving their top aides.
Trump said the first sit-down was "very, very good" and called their relationship "excellent." He added that the two of them will "solve a big problem, a big dilemma."
Denuclearization is sure to top the agenda.
In a related vein, the two sides could also attempt to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War as a security assurance for the regime and may also discuss the issue of North Korea's alleged human rights abuses.
What kept the two countries' negotiators talking late into the night Monday, however, was likely the gap in their definition of denuclearization and what that would entail.
The U.S. seeks the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North's nuclear weapons program, whereas the North advocates a broader definition that also includes the removal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella over South Korea and Japan.
"Meetings between staffs and representatives are going well and quickly ... but in the end, that doesn't matter," Trump tweeted hours before the summit.
"We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!"
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the U.S. goal has not changed. But he added that the U.S. is ready to offer security assurances that are "different, unique" compared with those it has been willing to provide previously.
"The ultimate objective we seek from diplomacy with North Korea has not changed: a complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept," he told reporters here. "But I am very optimistic that we will have a successful outcome from tomorrow's meeting between these two leaders."
Trump was also upbeat about the meeting he has said he has prepared for all his life.
"I just think it's going to work out very nicely," he said at a luncheon with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday.
Source: Yonhap News Agency