After their nearly five-hour summit, the US president promised ‘security guarantees’ to Pyongyang and announced war games with South Korea would cease
United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hailed their historic summit on Tuesday as a breakthrough for peace on the Korean peninsula, but questions immediately emerged over the sketchiness of the pact they signed and whether Pyongyang would actually surrender its nuclear arsenal any time soon.
China, North Korea’s most important ally, mooted sanctions relief for the hermit kingdom within hours of the meeting, which Foreign Minister Wang Yi described as “creating a new history”.
After their nearly five-hour summit at Singapore’s Sentosa island resort, Trump and Kim sealed a deal that saw the US president pledge “security guarantees” to Pyongyang, while the isolated regime’s young leader “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.
As a barrage of camera flashbulbs went off at the signing ceremony, Trump declared the two leaders, who once poured vitriol on each other, had now formed a “special bond”.
In a press conference two hours later, Trump revealed one key detail omitted in the text of the accord: the termination of US military exercises with its stalwart ally, South Korea.
The war games have long irked Pyongyang, which is technically still at war with the south and the US after the 1950-1953 Korean war.
Seoul, a key supporter of Tuesday’s talks, appeared taken aback by the revelation, with President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman stating that Seoul needed clarity on the “precise meaning” of Trump’s remarks.
Trump explained how US bombers would fly more than six hours from Guam to participate in the annual war games with South Korean forces.
“That’s a long time for these big, massive planes to be flying to South Korea to practise and then drop bombs all over the place and then go back to Guam. I know a lot about airplanes, it’s very expensive,” he said.
“Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war.”
In return, the US president said, Kim had promised that a “major missile engine test site” would be dismantled.
The deal listed four points of agreement: the two sides would establish “new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of peoples of the two countries”; they would “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula”; the North would “work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”; and both parties would recover and repatriate the remains of missing troops and prisoners from the Korean war.
There were few other specifics in the agreement, but that did not stop Trump from unleashing his trademark rhetoric.
He said the document signalled “a lot of progress [had been made] … better than anybody could have expected”.
He described Kim as a “great personality and very smart – good combination,” and “a very worthy, very smart negotiator”.
Trump said the meeting had been “honest, direct and productive” and that when Kim arrived back in Pyongyang he was “going to make a lot of people very happy and very safe”.
Trump also said he himself would visit Pyongyang “at the appropriate time”.
Asked about the omission of “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation”, or CVID, in the talks, Trump denied the US had scaled backed its demands of North Korea.
CVID had been a key condition touted by Washington in the lead up to the talks.
Kim Sung-Chull, a professor in Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, described the summit “politically successful,” noting that it is missing some crucial details on denuclearisation.
“Neither the term CVID nor denuclearisation timeline was included in the deal,” the scholar said.
“What the world wanted to see was …. the denuclearisation process and the security guarantee.”
“The Reality TV-Star Trump just pulled off the photo-op of a lifetime,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN. “Rather than signing an unsubstantial agreement, Trump and Kim should be signing a real document based on international law, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
The US leader flew out of Singapore aboard Air Force One at 6.30pm local time, headed for Guam, where he was expected to greet American troops before flying back to Washington. Kim left the St Regis hotel for his departure flight just before 10.30pm on Tuesday.
Boarding his plane, Trump said “there was nothing more we could have done” at the summit.
Earlier he said he might call Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss his meeting with Kim before landing back in Washington.
Trump and Kim had hurled numerous insults at each other over the past year, but on their first personal encounter they projected mutual respect and exchanged smiles frequently.
As they sat down for talks in the luxurious Capella Hotel, Kim told Trump through a translator that “many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a fantasy … science-fiction movie”.
Trump, in turn, told the North Korean leader the two of them were going to have a “great discussion”.
“It will be tremendously successful. And it’s my honour,” Trump said.
Earlier, before waiting photographers, they strode in sync towards each other against a backdrop adorned with US and North Korean flags, then shook hands for about 12 seconds.
After that meeting, the two leaders held talks with their top aides.
Later, the pair were joined by a wider delegation in a working lunch.
Both sides appeared at ease as they sat down for a meal that included a Malay “green mango kerabu” and octopus salad, beef short rib confit and daegu jorim – a Korean dish of soy-braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.
After lunch, the two leaders took a stroll through the resort’s grounds before Trump sent reporters scrambling by announcing the imminent signing of the accord – which was not included in the summit schedule released by the White House.
Kim was far more muted throughout the meeting – smiling as Trump fielded questions shouted to him at various points, including at the signing ceremony.
“The world will see a major change. I would like to express my gratitude to President Trump for making this meeting happen,” Kim said through an interpreter at the ceremony.
Asked what he had discovered from his time with Kim, Trump said: “I learned that he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.”
He added: “We’ll meet many times.”
Top US officials are expected to meet their North Korean counterparts next week to work out details of Tuesday’s agreement.