North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump shook hands and smiled cautiously as they met at their historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, in which the two men will look for ways to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
Should they succeed in making a diplomatic breakthrough, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, like the visit of former US President Richard Nixon to China in 1972 led to the transformation of China, reports Reuters.
“Nice to meet you Mister President,” Kim said as he sat alongside Trump, against a backdrop of North Korean and US flags, beaming broadly as the US president gave him a thumbs up. Trump said he was sure they would have a “terrific relationship”.
With cameras of the world’s press trained on them, Trump and Kim displayed an initial atmosphere of bonhomie.
“I feel really great,” Trump said. “It’s gonna be a great discussion and I think tremendous success. I think it’s gonna be really successful and I think we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.”
Kim replied: “Well, it was not easy to get here. The past has... placed many obstacles in our way but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”
Both men looked serious as they got out of their limousines for the summit at the Capella hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa, a resort island with luxury hotels, a casino, manmade beaches, and a Universal Studios theme park.
But they were soon smiling and holding each other by the arm, before Trump guided Kim to the library where they held a meeting with only their interpreters. Trump had said on Saturday he would know within a minute of meeting Kim whether he would reach a deal.
After some initial exchanges lasting around half-an-hour, Trump and Kim emerged, walking side-by-side through the colonnaded hotel before re-entering the meeting room, where they were joined by their most senior officials.
As the two leaders met, Singapore navy vessels, and air force Apache helicopters patrolled, while fighter jets and an Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft circled.
Financial markets were largely steady in Asia and did not show any noticeable reaction to the start of the summit. The dollar was at a three-week high and the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares was largely unchanged from Monday.
While Trump and Kim search each other’s eyes and words for signs of trust or deceit, the rest of the world will be watching, hoping that somehow these two unpredictable leaders can find a way to defuse one of the planet’s most dangerous flashpoints.
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