North Korea will be offered unprecedented security guarantees when Kim Jong-гт meets with Donald trump in Singapore, the us Secretary of state said on the eve of the summit.
Mike Pompeo did not specify what security assurances Trump would offer Kim but made clear they would go even further than a 2005 agreement in which the US pledged not to attack North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons.
The White House said Trump would begin his meeting with Kim, the first US summit with North Korea, at 9am on Tuesday (2am UK time; 9pm on Monday in Washington) with a one-on-one meeting with translators but no advisers or aides. Only after that initial personal session will national security officials join the meeting.
“The discussions between the United States and North Korea are ongoing and have moved more quickly than expected,” the White House said. However, there are doubts over whether Trump can persuade Kim to make a clear statement on his intention to dismantle and surrender his nuclear weapons programme.
If an effort to close the gap, Pompeo said the US could give Pyongyang more guarantees of security than had hitherto been offer.
“It is the case we are prepared to give security assurances necessary for the North Koreans to engage in … denuclearisation,” Pompeo told reporters. “We are prepared to take actions that will provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation isn’t something that ends badly for them.”
He added: “We are prepared to make … security assurances that are different, [more] unique than, what America has been willing to provide previously. We think this is both necessary and appropriate.”
US and North Korean officials met in Singapore on Monday to prepare for the historic summit, which will take place at a luxury hotel on an island close to central Singapore.
While North Korea spoke of establishing a new “permanent peace-keeping mechanism” and its state-run news agency hailed a “new era” in relations with the US, Trump tweeted on Monday about how pleased he was to be in Singapore.
“Excitement in the air!” he tweeted.
The format for the talks is aimed at establishing a personal rapport between the two leaders. A US official said that the first session on Tuesday morning would be between the two alone apart from translators – with no advisers or aides. They will enter the negotiating room only after the one-on-one session is over.
Pompeo said he was optimistic that the summit would be a success, but defined success as an agreement that the negotiations should continue. He said the US was “hopeful that this summit will set the conditions for future talks”.
It was reported that Kim planned to fly back to North Korea in the early afternoon on Tuesday, leaving very little time for actual negotiations. There is still considerable uncertainty about what a deal between the leaders would look like.
The Pyongyang regime envisages denuclearisation as a gradual and somewhat amorphous process, in which both sides take phased reciprocal steps to defuse tensions with the ultimate but distant goal of nuclear disarmament.
The Trump administration has previously insisted on “complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament” (CVID) of North Korea, with the emphasis on unilateral steps by Pyongyang rewarded by US security assurances. But the president has significantly softened the US negotiating stance in the immediate run-up to the summit, accepting the prospect of open-ended negotiations involving multiple future summits.
Pompeo muddied the picture further on Monday by melding the two concepts in a tweet showing him at breakfast with US negotiators, saying the US remained “committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.
The North Korean state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the meeting would discuss “wide-ranging and profound views on the issue of establishing new DPRK-US relations, the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula.”
The KCNA news agency heralded the summit as part of a “changed era”.
Most observers predict the outcome will be a short and vague statement built around the ambiguous aim of the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, leaving it to later bilateral meetings to negotiate what that would mean in practice.
Kim was the first to arrive in Singapore, landing at Changi airport on a commercial Air China plane. It is the farthest Kim has travelled since inheriting power in 2011, and only his third known trip outside the country since then, with the use of a Chinese plane raising questions over the state of North Korea’s ageing fleet of Soviet-built aircraft.
As Kim’s black Mercedes arrived at the St Regis hotel in downtown Singapore, it was flanked by bodyguards in black suits jogging alongside the car.
Kim met the Singaporean prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, briefly on Sunday, smiling broadly as the two posed for photographs.
“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,” Kim told Lee through an interpreter.
Kim later departed with his entourage on a night-time tour of Singapore accompanied by local government officials.
Singapore’s foreign minister tweeted a selfie with Kim and an unknown man during the tour.
Members of the media were held at bay as they tried to sneak a glimpse of the North Korean leader. There were rumours in the afternoon that Kim would tour several economic projects in the city state and his staff and cars were on call from about 2pm local time.
The US president arrived on Air Force One a few hours after Kim, coming directly from a tumultuous G7 summit in Quebec, which ended with a bitter personal exchange between the US president and the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.
Even after touching down in Singapore, it was clear that trade disputes with US allies in Quebec continued to rankle Trump.
“Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on trade any more,” Trump tweeted. “We must put the American worker first!”
Trump and his entourage met the Singaporean prime minister for lunch on Monday. He told Lee: “We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely.”