SINGAPORE (Dispatches) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore could "work out very nicely” as officials from both countries sought to narrow differences on how to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
Kim made an evening tour of sites on Singapore’s waterfront, on the eve of the summit that is due to get underway on Tuesday morning at a nearby resort island.
While Trump was optimistic about prospects for the summit between the old foes, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo injected a note of caution ahead of the first-ever meeting of sitting U.S. and North Korean leaders, saying it remained to be seen whether Kim was sincere about his willingness to denuclearize.
Officials from the two sides held last-minute talks aimed at laying the groundwork for a meeting that was almost unthinkable just months ago when the two leaders were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.
Offering a preview to reporters, Pompeo played down the possibility of a quick breakthrough and said the summit should set the framework for "the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
North Korea, though, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to its survival.
Sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until that had happened, Pompeo said. "If diplomacy does not move in the right direction ... those measures will increase.”
The White House later said Trump would leave Singapore on Tuesday night, after the summit. He had earlier been scheduled to leave on Wednesday. Kim is due to leave on Tuesday afternoon, a source involved in the planning of his visit, said on Sunday.
Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday after a blow-up over trade with other members of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that cast a cloud over his efforts to score a major foreign policy win in the nuclear talks.
In the lead up to the summit, North Korea rejected any unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to denuclearization of the peninsula has historically meant it wants the United States to remove its "nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.
The White House said Trump would hold a one-on-one meeting with Kim on Tuesday on the small island of Sentosa. The two will later be joined by officials and have lunch together.
Trump initially touted the potential for a grand bargain with North Korea to rid itself of a nuclear missile program that has advanced rapidly to threaten the United States.
Many analysts suggest Trump is perversely more at ease with traditional foes — contrasting his treatment of the likes of Canada’s Justin Trudeau to the red-carpet welcome he recently gave Kim’s right-hand man at the White House.
Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul summed it up: "If Trump can’t negotiate a deal on milk with one of our closest allies, how is he going to get a deal on nuclear disarmament with one of our greatest foes?”
Heading into the G7 summit in Canada in characteristically bullish mood, Trump had promised he would pull off the sort of trade deal that only he, the world’s greatest dealmaker, could make.
It will be "easy”, said Trump, but the reality was anything but.
Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said the G7 meltdown had put more pressure on Trump to cut a deal with the nuclear-armed Kim.
"Trump will not want to bust up two summits in a row lest people conclude he is the problem,” said Haas, predicting a more pliable president. It is "all about posturing and message-sending, not policy”, added Haas.
The G7 bust-up shows how badly it can go wrong if he fails.