Trump, Kim hail historic summit; questions over way forward

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un hailed their historic summit Tuesday as a breakthrough in relations between Cold War foes, but the agreement they produced contained few details about the key issue of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.

The extraordinary and unprecedented encounter in Singapore saw the leader of the world's most powerful democracy shake hands with the third generation scion of a dynastic dictatorship, standing as equals in front of their nations' flags.

Kim agreed to the "complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula", a stock phrase favoured by Pyongyang that stopped short of long-standing US demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way.

And in a blockbusting press conference after the summit, Trump said the US would halt military exercises with Seoul -- something long sought by Pyongyang, which claims the drills are a rehearsal for invasion.

With Pyongyang having declared a moratorium on weapons testing on the grounds its development programmes were complete, the move looked like a tacit acceptance of the "freeze for freeze" proposal pushed by Beijing and previously decried by Washington.

The US stations around 30,000 troops in security ally South Korea to protect it from its neighbour, which invaded in 1950 in an attempt to reunify the peninsula by force.

"We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money," Trump told reporters, adding that "at some point" he wanted to withdraw US troops from the South.

Both Seoul and US military commanders in the South indicated they had no idea the announcement was coming, and analysts expressed immediate concern.

Ending the drills "is in excess of all expert consensus, South Korean requests, and even a close reading of North Korean demands", said Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists.

- All smiles -

The Singapore summit was a potentially legacy-defining meeting for both men -- comparable to president Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, or Ronald Reagan's 1986 summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

But many agreements have been made in the past with North Korea that have later fallen apart, and ahead of the meeting, critics expressed concerns that it risked being more about headlines than substantive progress.

It also legitimised Kim, whose regime stands accused of widespread human rights abuses, critics charged.

In the event, the two leaders showered each other with compliments in the sumptuous setting of a luxury Singapore hotel, a marked contrast from their previous rounds of mutual insults, such as "mentally deranged" and "little rocket man".

Trump said he had formed a "special bond" with Kim, whom he described as "very talented". As well as abuses at home, Kim is also suspected of ordering the assassination of his brother at a Malaysian airport last year.

After a day filled with smiles and handshakes watched around the world, the US "committed to provide security guarantees" to North Korea, while Pyongyang committed to "work towards" denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

Melissa Hanham of the US-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies said on Twitter that North Korea had "already promised to do this many times," adding the two sides "still don't agree on what 'denuclearisation' means."

Asked about the issue -- the crux of the summit -- Trump said "we're starting that process" which would begin "very, very quickly", but gave no concrete details.

US sanctions would remain in place until Washington had seen progress, he added, before flying out of Singapore bound for the US territory of Guam -- towards which Pyongyang had last year threatened to lob missiles.

- We'll meet again -

"We'll meet again," Trump said after the signing ceremony, standing with Kim on the verandah where they first met. "We will meet many times."

He "absolutely" would be willing to invite Kim to the White House, and would do so when the time was right, he added.

For his part, Kim -- who made headlines the evening before the summit with an nighttime visit to major tourist sites -- said the two Cold War foes had vowed to "leave the past behind", pledging "the world will see a major change".

Abraham Denmark of the Wilson Center in Washington tweeted: "It seems Kim got a huge propaganda win and a metric ton of legitimacy, and the US gave up joint exercises, for little new and nothing in return."

But he added: "The silver lining is that dialogue will continue, and where there is diplomacy there is hope."

Six things we learned from historic US-N.Korea summit
Singapore (AFP) June 12, 2018 - US President Donald Trump hailed his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un as a "very great day in the history of the world".

But as the world was glued to the unprecedented meeting, we also learned that Kim likes a selfie and that Trump is really, really proud of "The Beast", his armoured car.

- Bring the boys home -

In a jawdropping post-summit press conference lasting more than an hour, Trump said he wanted to bring home the 30,0000 or so US troops currently stationed in South Korea.

Picking up a theme he had hammered on the presidential campaign trail, but which worries allies in Seoul and Tokyo who rely on US defence, he said: "I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home."

He also called a unilateral halt to "very provocative" US military exercises with South Korea, claiming they were "very expensive" and the US pays for "a big majority of them".

- Sleepless in Singapore -

Summitry is hard work and Trump claimed he "had not slept for 25 hours" during his time in Singapore, which lasted just under 48.

The US president had an unusually light public schedule the day before the summit and holed up in his hotel the whole afternoon and evening -- although he was tweeting very early on D-day and again on his way to the meeting.

Kim also proved to be a secret night owl, stunning onlookers in Singapore by going on an unannounced night-time prowl of the city sights, accompanied by a horde of aides and security officers.

- Air Force Un -

Before the summit, several commentators wondered how the travel-shy Kim was going to get to Singapore, having not flown such a distance since coming to power in December 2011.

In the end, he simply hitched a ride from his pal President Xi Jinping on an Air China Boeing 747 -- a surprising move given North Korea's insistence on "juche" or self-reliance.

The crew had social media users and planespotters scratching their heads with some aerial subterfuge, changing call-sign midair over China.

It may have been a safer move than taking his usual aircraft, a Soviet-made Ilyushin-62 dubbed Air Force Un -- although his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong reportedly used it to reach the city-state.

- Location, location, location -

According to former hotel developer Donald Trump, the beaches of North Korea offer ripe opportunities -- although he gave a slightly sinister reason for knowing that.

"They have great beaches," he said. "You see that whenever they are exploding the cannons into the ocean.

"I said, 'Boy look at that view.' Wouldn't that would make a great condo? I said, 'Instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world.'

"Think of it from the real estate prospective. South Korea and China, and they own the land in the middle."

- Selfie star -

Kim capped months of a diplomatic charm offensive by posing for a public selfie for the first time -- a far cry from his usually carefully controlled image.

The photo of a grinning North Korean leader, taken and posted online by Singapore's foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan, astonished social media users.

Not everyone was impressed, though.

"Is it worth taking a picture with a tyrant? It's your shame," said one user @huangyonghua.

- 1 in 10,000 -

Gone were the days of "little rocket man" and "sick puppy" -- names Trump had previously used for his summit buddy.

Now Kim was praised as "talented", "very smart", a "good negotiator" who "loves his country very much", according to the US President, who even showed off his armoured limousine to the North's leader.

Few people could take over North Korea at the age of 26 and "run it tough", Trump mused. "1 in 10,000 couldn't do it," he added, with the caveat: "I didn't say he was nice about it."

Pressed on the fate of Otto Warmbier, the US student who died after being held in North Korea, Trump said relations started to change with Pyongyang at around the time of Warmbier's death.

"Otto did not die in vain," he said.


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NUKEWARS
Trump, Kim hail historic summit despite doubts over agreement
Singapore (AFP) June 12, 2018
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un hailed their historic summit Tuesday as a breakthrough in relations between Cold War foes, but the agreement they produced was short on details about the key issue of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons. The extraordinary encounter saw the leader of the world's most powerful democracy shake hands with the third generation scion of a ruling dynasty, standing as equals in front of their nations' flags. Kim agreed to the "complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula", a st ... read more

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