Trump plans to meet Kim alone at summit start: US official

WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump intends to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un one-on-one briefly at the beginning of their June 12 summit - a moment the US President has said will be a critical gauge of whether a deal is likely, according to a US official familiar with their plans.

Mr Trump said on Saturday he thinks he will know "within the first minute" if Mr Kim, who is Chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, is serious about giving up his nuclear arsenal and whether "something positive will happen".

The current plan is for the two leaders to be alone for that first minute, although likely with translators in the room.

The two men will be joined later by their closest aides, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, the official said. Mr Kim's sister, Ms Kim Yo Jong, who is part of his entourage in Singapore, will likely also be at the summit table.

The summit is scheduled to start at 9am tomorrow. The plan is to wrap up the meeting in the evening and, if things go well, for there to be a joint declaration, according to another US official. The summit is unlikely to go beyond tomorrow, the official added.

However, Reuters reported that Mr Kim would be leaving Singapore at 2pm tomorrow, citing a source involved in planning his visit.

"I feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people," Mr Trump said at a press conference in Charlevoix, Canada, where he attended a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven nations. "It's a one-time shot and I think it's going to work out very well.

"There's a good chance it won't work out," he added. "There's probably an even better chance it will take a period of time."

Mr Trump's comments, made shortly before his departure for Singapore, underline his recent efforts to curb expectations for the summit, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

Mr Kim is seeking security guarantees and relief from economic sanctions. Mr Trump wants Mr Kim to dismantle his nuclear arsenal entirely, thus giving up his only real deterrent and bargaining chip.

Mr Kim has the "opportunity" to make a deal with the US, Mr Trump said on Saturday, but he "won't have that opportunity again".

"The minimum would be a relationship - you'd start at least a dialogue," Mr Trump added, when asked about outcomes. "As a deal person, that is important."

One of the topics that might come up for discussion tomorrow is the establishment of official diplomatic ties between the US and North Korea, US media website Axios reported on Saturday, citing two sources familiar with preparations for the Singapore summit.

Mr Trump could also consider opening an American embassy in Pyongyang, the report said.

"It's definitely been discussed," the unnamed source told Axios.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2018, with the headline 'Trump plans to meet Kim alone at summit start: US official'. Print Edition | Subscribe