SINGAPORE: US President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged at a historic summit on Tuesday to move towards complete denuclearisation, while the United States promised its old foe security 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.
“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
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. Trump had said on Saturday he would know within a minute of meeting Kim whether he would reach a deal.
Trump later told a news conference he expected the denuclearisation process to start “very, very quickly” and it would be verified by “having a lot of people in North Korea”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials would hold follow-up negotiations “at the earliest possible date”, the statement said.
Despite Kim announcing that North Korea was destroying a major missile engine-testing site, Trump said sanctions on North Korea would stay in place for now.
John Hopkins University’s North Korea monitoring project 38 North said last week North Korea had razed a facility for testing canister-based ballistic missiles.
Trump said the regular military exercises the United States holds with South Korea were expensive and provocative. His halting of the drills could rattle South Korea and Japan, which rely on a US security umbrella.
Trump said the exercises would not be revived “unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should”.
Earlier, Kim said he and Trump had “decided to leave the past behind. The world will see a major change”.
However, several experts said the summit failed to secure any concrete commitments by Pyongyang for dismantling its nuclear arsenal. They also noted the statement did not refer to human rights in one of the world’s most repressive nations.
Anthony Ruggiero, senior fellow at Washington’s Foundation for Defence of Democracies think-tank, said it was unclear if negotiations would lead to denuclearisation, or end with broken promises, as had happened in the past.
“This looks like a restatement of where we left negotiations more than 10 years ago and not a major step forward,” he said.
Trump said he had formed a “very special bond” with Kim and relations with North Korea would be very different in future. He called Kim “very smart” and a “very worthy, very hard negotiator”.
Just a few months ago, Kim was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and hundreds of officials suspected of disloyalty. Tens of thousands of North Koreans are imprisoned in labour camps.
Trump said he raised the issue of human rights with Kim, and he believed the North Korean leader wanted to “do the right thing”.
Trump also said US college student Otto Warmbier did not die in vain days after he was released from North Korean custody in 2017, as his death helped initiate the process that led to the summit. — Reuters