‘World is watching’ as leaders fly in for historic Singapore summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arriving at Singapore International airport in Singapore. Picture: AFP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arriving at Singapore International airport in Singapore. Picture: AFP
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US President Donald Trump landed in Singapore yesterday to join North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the island city-state ahead of a meeting meant to settle a stand-off over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.

Air Force One touched down at a military air base, travelling from Canada, where Mr Trump had attended a meeting of the G7.

The entire world is watching the historic summit and thanks to your sincere efforts ... we were able to complete the preparations

Kim Jong Un

Hours earlier, a jet carrying Mr Kim landed, and after shaking hands with the Singapore foreign minister, Mr Kim sped through the city’s streets in a massive limousine, two large North Korean flags fluttering on the bonnet, surrounded by other black vehicles with tinted windows and bound for the luxurious and closely guarded St Regis Hotel.

Mr Kim smiled broadly as he met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“The entire world is watching the historic summit between (North Korea) and the United States of America, and thanks to your sincere efforts ... we were able to complete the preparations for the historic summit,” Mr Kim told Mr Lee through an interpreter.

Mr Trump is set to meet Mr Lee today.

The US president has said he hopes to win a legacy-making deal with the North to give up their nuclear weapons, though he has recently sought to manage expectations, saying that it may take more than one meeting.

The North, many experts believe, stands on the brink of being able to target the entire US mainland with its nuclear-armed missiles, and while there is deep scepticism that Mr Kim will quickly give up those hard-won nuclear weapons, there is also some hope that diplomacy can replace the animosity between the US and the North.

This will be the first summit of its kind between a leader of North Korea and a sitting US president.

The North has faced crippling diplomatic and economic sanctions as it has advanced development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The North Korean autocrat’s every move will be followed by 3,000 journalists who have converged on Singapore up until he shakes hands with Mr Trump tomorrow. It is a reflection of the intense global curiosity over Mr Kim’s sudden turn to diplomacy in recent months after a series of nuclear and missile tests last year raised serious fears of war.

Part of the interest in tomorrow’s summit is simply because Mr Kim has made such limited appearances on the world stage.

He has only publicly left his country three times since taking power after his father’s death in late 2011 – twice travelling to China and once across his shared border with the South to the southern part of the Demilitarised Zone in recent summits with the leaders of China and South Korea respectively. But it is Mr Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons that gives his meeting with Mr Trump such high stakes.

The meeting was initially meant to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, but the talks have been portrayed by Mr Trump in recent days more as a get-to-know-you session.