Trump on 'mission of peace', confident of positive outcome

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to depart for travel to Singapore from the Canadian Forces Base Bagotville, Quebec, on June 9, 2018.
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to depart for travel to Singapore from the Canadian Forces Base Bagotville, Quebec, on June 9, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

Vivian sees sincerity and desire on both sides to escape constraints of last seven decades

US President Donald Trump has described Tuesday's historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore as a "mission of peace", and expressed confidence in a positive outcome.

Just minutes before his flight from Canada to Singapore, where he is expected to land by about 9pm today, he said: "I feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people and he has that opportunity... It's a one-time shot."

 

Speaking at a press conference during the Group of Seven (G-7) Summit, he added that the North Koreans had been working "very well with us" in the build-up to the meeting. He also said he would know within a minute whether something good will come out of the meeting.

The positive sentiments were reflected in remarks by Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, after a whirlwind five-day trip to Washington and Pyongyang.

"I have met both sides, I see sincerity on both sides, I see a desire, a willingness to escape the constraints that have applied for the last seven decades - so with goodwill and creativity, let's see what they come up with," he said, adding that it is Singapore's hope that there would be a breakthrough.

Dr Balakrishnan, who arrived in Beijing yesterday morning from Pyongyang, was en route home to Singapore. Elaborating on his visits to the US and North Korea, he said: "Basically I went there to make sure everything was in place, and that there would be no last-minute spoilers or difficulties."

He added that both countries expressed their appreciation to Singapore, "especially for getting things ready in quite a short time, and the meticulous attention to detail". "I'm glad to say that as of now it's all systems go - both the Americans as well as the North Koreans are pleased with the arrangements."

 
 
 
 

Mr Trump has said one possible outcome of the summit is an agreement with North Korea to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. While the summit will strictly be between the US and North Korea, both sides say if and when they arrive at an agreement, they would have to involve other key stakeholders, said Dr Balakrishnan, without specifying those parties.

In Washington, he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday. He arrived on Thursday in Pyongyang, where he held talks with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho and met the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.

It was his first visit to Pyongyang. "If you go to Pyongyang today, what you will see is a clean, green, modern, beautiful city," he said, adding that it was clear the government has been upgrading infrastructure.

After a visit to an eye hospital, Dr Balakrishnan, a former ophthalmologist, said it had the latest equipment, comparable to what one would find in Singapore, despite the sanctions.

"Now can you imagine if peace finally comes and North Korea is allowed to open up to the world and gain access to technology, capabilities, skills and markets? I think the sky's the limit for their people."

Mr Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea, is also expected to arrive today, at Changi Airport. Yesterday, the airport welcomed a rare direct flight from Pyongyang, likely carrying an advance part of North Korean delegates.

At St Regis and Shangri-La, the hotels where Mr Kim and Mr Trump are expected to stay respectively, there were signs of enhanced security, with bag scanners and metal detectors installed, along with police checkpoints. The summit will take place at Capella hotel on Sentosa.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran yesterday toured the media centre being set up at the F1 Pit Building for the roughly 2,500 international journalists expected. He paid tribute to all involved in pulling off this logistical feat within a fortnight. "This is really Singapore Inc at its best, working between the private sector and public sector in a very seamless manner in order to achieve the kind of outcomes that we're known for."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 10, 2018, with the headline 'Trump on 'mission of peace', confident of positive outcome'. Print Edition | Subscribe