Trump, Kim meet for historic summit

Jack Kim and Steve Holland
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Trump Kim Summit

The summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is likely to define both their careers

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have ended their one-on-one talks and are now engaged in an extended bilateral meeting with their staffs in Singapore.

Trump and Kim spoke for just over 45 minutes by themselves, with only their translators present.

For the extended bilateral meeting, Trump was accompanied by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Over a noisy barrage of camera shutters, Trump could be heard saying, "It will be done," although it wasn't clear what he was referring to.

Kim and Trump had earlier shaken hands, smiling cautiously at the outset of their historic summit, in which they will look for ways to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Trump and Kim strode out from opposite sides onto a red carpet in front of alternating US and North Korean flags and after the handshake stood unsmiling in front of waiting photographers, their arms at their sides.

Trump patted Kim on the back as he led him away down a corridor at the Capella hotel on the resort island of Sentosa for their one-on-one discussions.

"Nice to meet you Mister President," Kim said moments later as he sat alongside Trump, against a backcloth of North Korean and US flags, beaming more broadly as the US president gave him a thumbs up.

With cameras of the world's press trained on them, Trump and Kim built an initial atmosphere of friendship.

"I feel really great. We're going to have a great discussion and will be tremendously successful. It's my honour and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt," Trump said.

"It was not easy to get here....There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here," Kim replied.

Should they succeed in making a diplomatic breakthrough, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, in a similar way to how the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 changed Europe.

With destiny calling, Trump was the first to arrive at the colonial-era Capella Hotel on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore's port with luxury hotels, a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches.

While Trump and Kim search each other's eyes and words for signs of trust or deceit, the rest of the world will be watching, hoping that somehow these two unpredictable leaders can find a way to defuse one of the planet's most dangerous flashpoints.

In the hours before the summit began Trump expressed optimism about prospects for the first-ever meeting of sitting US and North Korean leaders, while Pompeo injected a note of caution whether Kim would prove to be sincere about his willingness to denuclearise.

Officials of the two sides held last-minute talks to lay the groundwork for the summit of the old foes, an event almost unthinkable just months ago, when they were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.

Staff-level meetings between the United States and North Korea were going "well and quickly," Trump said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday.

But he added: "In the end, that doesn't matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!"

The combatants of the 1950-53 Korean War are technically still at war, as the conflict, in which millions of people died, was concluded only with a truce.

Pompeo told reporters the event should set the framework for "the hard work that will follow", insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

North Korea, however, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim's dynastic rule.

Sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until that happened, Pompeo said. "If diplomacy does not move in the right direction ... those measures will increase."

The White House said later that discussions with North Korea had moved "more quickly than expected" and Trump would leave Singapore on Tuesday night after the summit, rather than Wednesday, as scheduled earlier.

Kim is due to leave on Tuesday afternoon, a source involved in the planning of his visit has said.