US President Donald Trump said on Monday that his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “could work out very nicely”, as both sides sought to narrow differences over how to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
Trump will hold a one-on-one meeting with Kim on Tuesday on the resort island of Sentosa in Singapore, before they are joined by officials and have lunch together.
“I just think it’s going to work out very nicely,” Trump said on Monday, although gaps remain over what denuclearization would entail, Reuters reports.
Staff-level meetings between the US and North Korea were going “well and quickly,” Trump said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday.
But he added: “In the end, that doesn’t matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!”
After a flurry of diplomatic overtures that eased tension, Trump and Kim are headed for landmark talks that US officials hope could eventually lead to the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
While Trump was optimistic about the outcome, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo injected a note of caution, saying it remains to be seen if Kim is sincere about his willingness to denuclearize.
Pompeo told reporters the event should set the framework for “the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea has to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
Sanctions on North Korea will remain in place until that happens, he said. “If diplomacy does not move in the right direction … those measures will increase.”
The White House said discussions with North Korea have moved “more quickly than expected” and that Trump will leave Singapore on Tuesday night after the summit, rather than Wednesday, as scheduled earlier.
Kim is due to leave on Tuesday afternoon, according to a Reuters source.
On Monday, Kim visited Singapore’s waterfront, smiling and waving to onlookers, adding to a more affable image that has emerged since his April summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.
The Singapore summit is part of a “changed era”, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said in its first comments on the event.
Talks will focus on “the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern”, it added.
Ahead of the summit, North Korea rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament.
KCNA’s reference to denuclearization of the peninsula has historically meant it wants the US to remove a “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan, Reuters noted.
– Contact us at [email protected]