North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his United States counterpart, Donald Trump arrived in Singapore yesterday for an unprecedented summit, with Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal at the top of the agenda and the US president calling it a “one-time shot” at peace.
Bringing the Korean War to a formal end 65 years after hostilities ceased will also be on the table at the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting president of its “imperialist enemy”.
It is an extraordinary turnaround from the tensions of last year, when Kim accelerated his weapons programmes, earning the North more sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions and the two men traded personal insults and threats of war.
But critics charge that the meeting risks being largely a triumph of style over substance.
Kim arrived in Singapore on board an Air China 747 that according to flight tracking website Flightradar24 took off from Pyongyang in the morning ostensibly bound for Beijing, then changed its flight number in midair and headed south.
He was driven into the city centre in a stretch Mercedes-Benz limousine accompanied by a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, and later met Singaporean President Lee Hsien Loong, thanking him for hosting the event.
“If the summit becomes a success, the Singaporean efforts will go down in history,” Kim said.
Trump landed in the evening after a long flight from Canada and the G7 meeting there, telling Singaporean officials who welcomed him that he was feeling “very good” about the summit.
Authorities imposed tight security around the Singapore summit venue and the luxury hotels where the leaders were to stay, including installing extra pot plants outside Kim’s accommodation to obstruct reporters’ views.