With hearty handshakes, claps on the back and broad smiles for the cameras, President Trump and Kim Jong Un appeared to open a new chapter Tuesday in America’s long-hostile relations with North Korea as the two leaders spent a historic day of diplomacy aimed at ending the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Kim arrived first at the Capella Resort, on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, shortly before 9 am local time. He ignored the cameras, walking into the hotel with eyeglasses in hand. Trump followed a few minutes later, turning to face the cameras with a carefully neutral expression before he entered the venue.
The historic handshake of the two leaders before a row of US and North Korean flags took place at 9:04. Trump smiled and patted Kim on the back, ushering him towards the conference room. Trump said earlier he would know whether the summit would succeed within the first few minutes of meeting with Kim.
“We will have a great relationship, I have no doubt,” Trump said in a brief photo-op.
“Past practices and prejudices were obstacles on our way forward, but we overcame all of them and are here today,” Kim said. “That’s true,” quipped Trump.
The two met in private at first, accompanied only by their translators. After less than an hour, however, reporters were called in to take photos of an expanded format meeting. White House chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and national security adviser John Bolton sat on Trump’s side of the table.
“The world will see a major change,” Kim said at a signing ceremony with Trump. The North Korean dictator said he and Trump “decided to leave the past behind.”
“We’ve developed a very special bond,” Trump said. He told reporters he “absolutely” would invite Kim to the White House, adding that they would meet “many times.”
The summit on Singapore’s Sentosa Island produced startling images of a U.S. president and a North Korean autocrat not just meeting for the first time, but standing shoulder to shoulder as equals before arrays of U.S. and North Korean flags, images long unimaginable in Kim’s isolated communist nation.
Kim arguably spoke for many earlier when he remarked, soon after meeting Trump, that the world probably viewed their improbable summit as “a form of fantasy … from a science fiction movie.”