Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un concluded an extraordinary nuclear summit this morning, with the US president pledging unspecified “security guarantees” to the North and Mr Kim recommitting to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.
Mr Trump declared his momentous summit with Mr Kim had gone “better than anybody could have expected”.
The pair coupled the summit agreement with lofty promises by Mr Trump to handle “a very dangerous problem” and Mr Kim’s prediction for “major change”.
Light on specifics, the document largely amounted to an agreement to continue discussions as it echoed previous public statements and past commitments.
It did not include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the US and North Korea.
The pair promised in the document to “build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula and to repatriate remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Korean War.
Language on North Korea’s bombs was similar to what the leaders of North and South Korea came up with at their own summit in April.
At the time, the Koreans faced criticism for essentially kicking the issue of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal down the road to Tuesday’s Trump-Kim summit.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim even directly referenced the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, which contained a weak commitment to denuclearisation and no specifics on how to achieve it.
News photographers captured photos of the broad, two-page agreement, which was not immediately released by the White House.
The formal document signing followed a series of meetings at a luxury Singapore resort.
Mr Trump said he “absolutely” would invite the North Korean leader to the White House.
After Mr Kim and Mr Trump signed what the US president called a “pretty comprehensive” document, Mr Trump was asked about a possible invitation. He said “absolutely, I would” invite Kim.
Before Tuesday’s summit in Singapore, Mr Trump had dangled the prospect of a White House visit for Mr Kim.
Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Mr Trump and Mr Kim came together for a summit that seemed unthinkable months ago, clasping hands in front of a row of alternating US and North Korean flags, holding a one-on-one meeting, additional talks with advisers and a working lunch.
In advance of their private session, Mr Trump had predicted “tremendous success” while Mr Kim said through an interpreter that “we have come here after overcoming” obstacles.
Aware the eyes of the world were on a moment many people never expected to see, Mr Kim said many of those watching would think it was a scene from a “science fiction movie”.
In the run-up to the meeting, Mr Trump had predicted the two men might strike a nuclear deal or forge a formal end to the Korean War in the course of a single meeting or over several days.
But in the hours before the summit, the White House unexpectedly announced Mr Trump would depart Singapore earlier than expected – Tuesday evening – raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back.
Giving voice to the anticipation felt around the world, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he “hardly slept” before the summit.
Mr Moon and other officials watched the live broadcast of the summit before a South Korean Cabinet meeting in his presidential office
The meeting was the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
After meeting privately and with aides, Mr Trump and Mr Kim moved into the luncheon at a long flower-bedecked table.
As they entered, Mr Trump injected some levity to the day’s extraordinary events, saying: “Getting a good picture everybody? So we look nice and handsome and thin? Perfect.”
Then they dined on beef short rib confit along with sweet and sour crispy pork.
And as they emerged from the meal for a brief stroll together, Mr Trump appeared to delight in showing his North Korean counterpart the interior of “The Beast”, the famed US presidential limousine known for its high-tech fortifications.
Critics of the summit leapt at the leaders’ handshake and the moonlight stroll Mr Kim took last night along the glittering Singapore waterfront, saying it was further evidence that Mr Trump was helping legitimise Mr Kim on the world stage as an equal of the US president.
Mr Kim has been accused of horrific rights abuses against his people. During his stroll, crowds yelled out Mr Kim’s name and jostled to take pictures and the North Korean leader posed for a selfie with Singapore officials.
Mr Trump responded to such commentary on Twitter, saying: “The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the US, say the haters & losers.” But he added “our hostages” are back home and testing, research and launches have stopped.
Mr Trump also tweeted: “Meetings between staffs and representatives are going well and quickly ... but 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!”
The summit capped a dizzying few days of foreign policy activity for Mr Trump, who shocked US allies over the weekend by using a meeting in Canada of the Group of Seven industrialized economies to alienate America’s closest friends in the West.
Lashing out over trade practices, Mr Trump lobbed insults at his G-7 host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mr Trump left that summit early and, as he flew to Singapore, tweeted that he was yanking the US out of the group’s traditional closing statement.
As for Singapore, the White House said Mr Trump was leaving early because negotiations had moved “more quickly than expected”, but gave no details. The president planned to stop in Guam and Hawaii on the way back to Washington.
The unfolding summit was a remarkable change in dynamics from less than a year ago, when Mr Trump was threatening “fire and fury” against Mr Kim, who in turn scorned the American president as a “mentally deranged US dotard”.
Beyond the impact on both leaders’ political fortunes, the summit could shape the fate of countless people - the citizens of impoverished North Korea, the tens of millions living in the shadow of the North’s nuclear threat and millions more worldwide.
Alluding to the North’s concerns that giving up its nuclear weapons could surrender its primary deterrent to forced regime change, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the US was prepared to take action to provide North Korea with “sufficient certainty” that denuclearisation “is not something that ends badly for them”.
He would not say whether that included the possibility of withdrawing US troops from the Korean Peninsula, but said the context of the discussions was “radically different than ever before.”
“I can only say this,” Mr Pompeo said. “We are prepared to take what will be security assurances that are different, unique, than America’s been willing to provide previously.”
The North has faced crippling diplomatic and economic sanctions as it has advanced development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Mr Pompeo held firm to Mr Trump’s position that sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearises - and said they would even increase if diplomatic discussions did not progress positively.
Experts believe the North is close to being able to target the entire US mainland with its nuclear-armed missiles, and while there’s deep skepticism that Mr Kim will quickly give up those hard-won nukes, there’s also some hope that diplomacy can replace the animosity between the US and the North.