Australia hopeful about Trump-Kim summit

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Australia is weighing the role it can play following the summit between North Korea and the US

Australian political figures have hailed the historic denuclearisation summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore as a step forward.

The US and North Korean presidents signed an agreement at the end of the summit on Tuesday described as a "comprehensive letter".

"We had a terrific day and we learned a lot about each other and our countries," Mr Trump said.

"We'll meet many times."

Mr Kim, whose country is subject to a broad range of international sanctions - including from Australia - over its illegal weapons program, said he and Mr Trump had "decided to leave the past behind".

"The world will see a major change," the North Korean leader said through an interpreter.

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was one of the first to respond to the signing ceremony.

"Just now, a very, very big moment in history ... and a long, long way to go," Mr Rudd tweeted.

Government frontbencher James McGrath put it in a historic context: "As Churchill said, it is better to jaw jaw than war war."

After a 13-second greeting handshake, Mr Kim reportedly told Mr Trump through a translator: "Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy ... from a science fiction movie."

Labor leader Bill Shorten said not many people would have predicted the summit would take place, so he was pleased it occurred.

"My view is always you achieve more by talking in the same room than yelling at each other through megaphones at a distance," he told reporters.

"But I'm cautious. On this issue the national government and I are of one mind. We're pleased to see it, but we've seen discussions before, in previous decades."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the US would want to see concrete, verifiable steps toward dismantling the nuclear weapons program while North Korea will be looking for an economic or security guarantee.

"Kim Jong-un is most certainly an unorthodox leader. But they do hold the region's stability and potential peace in their hands," she added.

The two leaders met with just two interpreters in the room, before joining senior officials at a broader meeting.

Australia has imposed sanctions on North Korea - covering travel, goods and services, banking and scientific co-operation - since 2006 in response to concerns about the regime's weapons programs.