/ 11 June 2018

Kim Jong-un, Trump arrive in Singapore ahead of landmark summit

(Images: Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information/Reuters and Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters)
(Images: Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information/Reuters and Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump have landed in Singapore ahead of a landmark summit on Tuesday.

Their meeting, which will be held at the city-state’s Capella Hotel, will mark the first time a North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president.

Trump arrived at Singapore’s Paya Lebar Airbase at 12:30 GMT on Sunday, a few hours after Kim touched down at Changi Airport in an Air China 747.

“Welcomed Chairman Kim Jong Un, who has just arrived in Singapore,” Vivian Balakrishnan said on Twitter on Sunday, with a picture of him shaking hands with the North Korean leader who was wearing glasses and a dark Maoist suit.

The aircraft carrying Kim and the North Korean delegation to the summit took a mostly inland route while flying over China, according to a flight tracking website.

The Flightradar24 website also showed that there were no civilian planes anywhere near Kim’s flight, despite it passing through a usually busy area for such aircraft.

The North Korean leader later met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and thanked him for hosting the summit, according to Singapore’s foreign ministry. Trump is expected to hold talks with Lee on Monday.

‘Mixed messages’

On the US side, joining Trump was a delegation of high-level officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Before boarding the Air Force One flight to Singapore, Trump said: “At a minimum, I do believe we will have met each other.”

“We will have seen each other. Hopefully we will have liked each other and we’ll start that process. I would say that would be the minimal.”

The summit comes after months of speculation and disputes between Washington and Pyongyang that led Trump to briefly cancel the June 12 meeting on May 24.

READ MORE: North Korea threatens to cancel US summit

After a flurry of diplomatic efforts, including a White House meeting between by Kim’s right-hand man Kim Yong-chol and Trump, the proposed summit was put back on.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Singapore, said Trump has been sending “mixed messages” to Kim ahead of their meeting.

“President Trump last month briefly called off this summit and he has repeatedly threatened to walk out if he doesn’t believe the negotiations are serious. That’s a tough position.”

What’s at stake?

Authorities in Singapore imposed tight security around the summit venue and related luxury hotels, including installing extra pot plants outside one contender for Kim’s accommodation to obstruct reporters’ views.

At stake at the summit are North Korea’s nuclear weapons and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea spent decades developing nuclear weapons, culminating in the test of a thermonuclear device in 2017. It also successfully tested missiles that had enough range to reach the US mainland.

The tests came amid a campaign of “maximum pressure,” led by Washington, that tightened economic sanctions against Pyongyang and raised the possibility of military action.

In a New Year’s address, Kim said his country had completed development of its nuclear programme and would focus on economic development, suggesting a meeting with South Korea.

After a flurry of contacts between the two Koreas , South Korean officials suggested to Trump in March that Kim would be willing to meet face-to-face.

The talks will focus on reaching an agreement on the denuclearisation of North Korea in exchange for the easing of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Victor Teo, professor at the University of Hong Kong, believes “North Koreans are upbeat, but careful at the same time”.

He told Al Jazeera: “A meeting where the optics are positive, meaning Trump gets a handshake with Kim Jong-un and they both go home agreeing to some kind of denuclearisation deal would go a long way domestically for President Trump as much as it would for the chairman of the state committee.” — Al Jazeera