WASHINGTON • The White House wants North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to commit to a timetable to surrender his country's nuclear arsenal when he meets President Donald Trump on Tuesday in Singapore, a high-stakes summit that could last as long as two days - or just minutes.
Mr Trump has been advised not to offer Mr Kim, who is Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, any concessions, as the White House seeks to put the onus on the North Koreans to make the summit a success, one US official told Bloomberg.
The President is determined to walk out of the meeting if it does not go well, two officials said.
Alternatively, Mr Trump is toying with the idea of offering Mr Kim a follow-up summit at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, if the two men hit it off.
Other than announcing that the two leaders will first meet at 9am Singapore time on Tuesday at the Capella hotel on Sentosa Island, the White House has described no schedule for the summit. If the first meeting goes well, there will be further events that day, and perhaps even the next day.
"There could be more than one meeting, more than one conversation" between the leaders, presidential counsellor Kellyanne Conway told reporters yesterday, adding that a nuclear deal may take "two, three, four, five" meetings.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has travelled to Pyongyang twice since March, has prepared President Trump for the summit in about eight to 10 hours of briefings per week for several weeks, two US officials said. Defence Secretary James Mattis has said North Korea will win relief from crippling US economic sanctions "only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearisation".
North Korea has publicly bristled at US officials' insistence that it must agree to disarm before receiving anything in return, instead calling for a step-by-step approach to denuclearisation. The US side has indicated some flexibility on this sticking point, although it is still unclear what a path to denuclearisation would look like.
Mr Joseph Yun, former US special representative for North Korea policy, said Mr Kim could offer a declaration that he will eventually denuclearise when he no longer needs nuclear weapons for deterrence.
Speaking at a US congressional hearing on Tuesday, Mr Yun and Mr Victor Cha, former Asia director on the White House National Security Council, said the summit cannot reasonably be considered a success unless North Korea agrees to make a full, detailed declaration of all its nuclear sites and fissile material.
Previous attempts at denuclearisation talks failed, both stressed, because North Korean negotiators refused to provide such a declaration.
Mr Cha said international inspectors would then have to be allowed in to check the sites and stores before the US could begin to contemplate rewarding the North Koreans with concessions.
Mr Yun said that Mr Kim probably wants to test the US commitment to any nuclear deal during his first meeting with Mr Trump.
"I do believe the phrase 'getting to know you' that President Trump used ... it is probably exact wording from what the North Koreans want to do," Mr Yun said.
"I think this is what Kim Jong Un wants. He is the one who has gotten so far. He has come out onto a major foreign policy stage, so I think he wants to start slow," he added.
Japan's Kyodo News reported that Mr Kim Chang Son, the de-facto chief of staff to leader Kim Jong Un who led a team to Singapore to prepare for the summit, left the city-state yesterday. He is likely to be part of the North Korean leader's delegation to Singapore next week.
Working-level talks between the US and North Korea continued at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom yesterday to discuss the agenda for the historic summit, reported Yonhap news agency.
BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST