SINGAPORE (Dispatches) – U.S. President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged at a summit on Tuesday to move toward denuclearization, while the United States promised its old foe security without any guarantees.
The start of negotiations aimed at banishing what Trump described as North Korea’s "very substantial” nuclear arsenal could have far-reaching ramifications for the region, and in one of the biggest surprises of the day, Trump said he would stop military exercises with old ally South Korea.
But Trump and Kim gave few other specifics in a joint statement signed at the end of their summit in Singapore, and several analysts cast doubt on how effective the agreement would prove to be in the long run at getting North Korea to give up its cherished nuclear weapons.
The two leaders had appeared cautious and serious when they arrived for the summit at the Capella hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa, a resort island with luxury hotels, a casino and a Universal Studios theme park.
Body language expert said they both tried to project command as they met, but also displayed signs of nerves.
After a handshake, they were soon smiling and holding each other by the arm, before Trump guided Kim to a library where they met with only their interpreters.
The document signed on Tuesday says the US and North Korea "commit to establish [sic] new... relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity."
North Korea also reaffirmed its commitment to working "towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” a broad wording that could mean phased denuclearization in return for a number of potential American commitments along the way.
Yet, there was no word on any such U.S. commitments, including on the removal of harsh sanctions on North Korea and security guarantees that Pyongyang had previously demanded as a condition to denuclearize.
The U.S. and the North Korea also agreed to work for peace on the peninsula and address prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA) cases from the 1950s Korean war, in which the U.S. was on South Korea’s side.
Before signing the document, Kim said the two leaders had had a historic meeting "and decided to leave the past behind. The world will see a major change.”
The US president said he had formed a "very special bond” with Kim and that the US’s relationship with Pyongyang would be very different.
The two leaders addressed the media before walking into their one-on-one discussion. Trump said he is confident the talks will be a "tremendous success” and that "we will have a tremendous relationship, I have no doubt”.
Kim said "it has not been easy to get here” and that "the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles, but we have overcome them and we are here today."
"Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy from a science fiction movie," the North Korean leader said, according to pool of reporters.
Earlier, the White House said Trump will leave Singapore on Tuesday night, adding that nuclear talks with North Korea are moving "more quickly than expected.”