June 18, 2018

Trump and Kim prepare for historic meeting

14 June 2018, 04:24 | Taylor George

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Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un's one-on-one meeting during their historic summit has been described as an "unacceptable danger to U.S. national security" by retired American officials.

In the run-up to Tuesday's historic face-to-face with Kim, Trump has appeared unconcerned about the implications of feting an authoritarian leader suspected of ordering the public assassination of his half brother with a nerve agent, executing his uncle by firing squad and presiding over a notorious gulag estimated to hold 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners. But Trump has notably avoided calling out authoritarian leaders on human rights when he wants closer ties with them, whether it's adversaries like China and Russian Federation or allies like Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

In the same statement, the White House said the talks between United States and North Korean officials were moving "more quickly than expected", though didn't elaborate on what precisely that meant for Trump's stated goal of securing North Korea's complete and verifiable denuclearization. He added that he suspected he "somewhat had something to do with this North Korean situation".

North and South Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice that Seoul's then leader refused to sign and divided the peninsula along the Demilitarised Zone.

"We've got a very interesting meeting. tomorrow, and I just think it's going to work out very nicely", Trump said.

For all the upbeat talk, it was an open question what, if any, concrete results the sit-down would produce.

"We are hopeful this summit will have set the conditions for future successful talks", Pompeo said, describing a far more modest goal than Trump had outlined days earlier. By contrast, Trump appeared to back off a military footing on Tuesday, declaring the United States will stop the "war games", an apparent reference to joint military exercises with South Korea that North Korea has long rebuked as provocative.

But the casual onlooker may have had difficulty spotting Kim, who was surrounded by his force of about a dozen loyal bodyguards, who formed a human shield around him.

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The men were preparing in separate rooms before their 9 a.m. handshake. "China will be more than happy to facilitate that strategic transition, but a precondition to doing that is a better North Korea-US relationship".

While advisers say Trump has been reviewing briefing materials, the president insists his gut instincts will matter most when he gets in the room with Kim.

Mr Trump famously vowed to unleash "fire and fury" if Pyongyang kept threatening the US.

Advance teams from North Korea and the U.S. have spent recent weeks in Singapore negotiating everything from presidential hotels to seating charts and lunch breaks during the summit.

He expressed hope that Trump and Kim would be able to make progress. During past negotiations, North Korea has reneged on agreements, and after getting what they wanted, and then failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

The US is also concerned about the proliferation of North Korea's weapons and the infrastructure supporting its nuclear programme, and will want those issues addressed as part of any deal. "It's a huge win for Kim Jong Un, who now - if nothing else - has the prestige and propaganda coup of meeting one on one with the president, while armed with a nuclear deterrent", said Michael Kovrig, a northeast Asia specialist at the International Crisis Group in Washington.

So the summit was almost derailed by talk from Trump's hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton of a "Libya model" of disarmament.

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