Trump may leave G-7 early for Singapore amid trade dispute

US leader clashes with other group members over steel, aluminium tariffs ahead of meeting

Summit frenzy is in full swing as people snap photos with a cut-out standee featuring US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un advertising a summit-themed dish at a restaurant in Singapore. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

United States President Donald Trump is expected to arrive in Singapore earlier than scheduled tomorrow, ahead of a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.

This, after the White House announced that his departure from Canada, where he is attending the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting, has been brought forward by roughly four hours. This means he could be in Singapore before 11pm, the originally scheduled time of arrival.

"I may leave a little bit early," Mr Trump told reporters before leaving Washington for the two-day annual summit, where he will cut an isolated figure, with his G-7 allies angry over US tariffs on steel and aluminium. French President Emmanuel Macron has hinted that the US may be excluded from the traditional joint statement issued after every meeting.

Of the summit in Singapore, Mr Trump told reporters after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House: "I think we will have a terrific success or a modified success."

Mr Trump did acknowledge when asked that one possible outcome is that he and Mr Kim, whose official title is Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, will formally declare an end to the 1950 to 1953 Korean War. Fighting ended with a truce instead of a peace treaty.

"The President has always understood this as a process," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told journalists later, referring to the talks. He pushed back on reports that the US is no longer insisting on "maximum pressure" on North Korea.

Complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation is the only acceptable outcome, and no sanctions will be lifted until that is achieved, he said.

He added that in his two meetings with Mr Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean leader "indicated to me personally that he is prepared to denuclearise". But this will take some time, he added.

Unlike the Singapore summit, this year's G-7 is shaping up to be a contentious one as Mr Trump's unilateral approach has rattled not just rivals but allies as well, and risks a spiralling trade war.

"I am heading for Canada and the G-7 for talks that will mostly centre on the long-time unfair trade practised against the United States," Mr Trump said in a tweet.

The G-7 grouping comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

Mr Trump was due to hold bilateral meetings with Mr Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Ottawa with Mr Trudeau on Thursday, Mr Macron said: "American jobs are on the line because of his (Mr Trump's) actions and because of his administration."

A trade war, he added, will also hurt American workers.

"When we can underscore this, and we see that there is a lot of pressure within the US, perhaps he will revise his position."

At issue is US tariffs on steel and aluminium, imposed on a range of countries, including Canada and Japan, in a bid to protect America's steel industry in the name of national security. Some countries have announced retaliatory tariffs.

Dr Richard Haas, who heads the US Council for Foreign Relations, tweeted that while much of Mr Trump's and the world's focus is on Singapore, the more significant summit may be in Canada.

North Korea "constitutes a significant but narrow challenge, but the rupture in transatlantic ties is structural, constituting a systemic challenge to what has been a US-led world order", he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline Trump may leave G-7 early for Singapore amid trade dispute. Subscribe