Trump and Kim Arrive in Singapore for Historic Summit Meeting
Posted June 10, 2018 12:09 p.m. EDT
SINGAPORE — Just over two weeks ago, it appeared as if the summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un of North Korea was not going to happen. A few months ago, the two countries even seemed close to the brink of war.
But on Sunday, both Trump and Kim arrived in Singapore for a historic encounter to discuss the future of North Korea’s nuclear program.
The summit meeting, resuscitated at the last minute, will be the first between an American president and a North Korean leader.
Trump, who arrived in Singapore after declaring he did not need to prepare for the two-day meeting, will pit his negotiating skills against the leader of one of the world’s most isolated countries.
At stake is the nuclear future of North Korea and the security of the entire region at a time when Trump has questioned the need for a strong U.S. military presence in northeast Asia.
The American president arrived just after 8:20 p.m. local time at Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore aboard Air Force One, a few hours after Kim landed at Changi Airport on a commercial Air China plane.
Trump had flown straight from a tempestuous Group of 7 meeting in Canada, where he had cut short his attendance to head to Singapore.
Kim’s arrival on the Chinese plane raised questions about the flight-worthiness of North Korea’s aging fleet of mostly Soviet-built planes. This is the farthest Kim has traveled since he took power in 2011.
The North Korean leader and Trump are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, after a dramatic two-week run-up during which Trump declared the summit meeting was off and then on again.
Earlier on Sunday, reporters scrambled to track three planes headed from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to Singapore. Kim landed in the afternoon a little after 2:30 p.m. and was greeted at the airport by Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan.
Balakrishnan confirmed the arrival in a message on Twitter that included a photo of his welcoming Kim. The foreign minister also greeted Trump when the president arrived at the air base.
International news media have descended on Singapore, with the United States, Japan and South Korea sending the most journalists. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Communications, about 2,500 journalists had registered to cover the meeting.
A contingent of reporters spent the steaming hot day staking out the St. Regis Hotel, where Kim’s motorcade arrived shortly after 3:30 p.m. with North Korean flags flapping on the front hoods of Mercedes-Benz stretch cars. Traffic was snarled along roads leading to and from the hotel.
The summit meeting will be held at the Capella Resort on Sentosa Island, a popular recreation spot off the southern tip of Singapore.
Although there were nowhere near royal-wedding level crowds, curious citizens joined camera crews and journalists on the road outside the St. Regis to watch Kim’s motorcade depart for a meeting with the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong.
“It is a big thing for Singapore,” said Patrick Han, 29, an energy research analyst who came out with his mother to wait near the St. Regis on Sunday afternoon. But after seeing how Trump had alienated allies at the G-7 meeting, Han said, “I am not really hopeful that a single summit will have tangible results.”
Ruairi Gogan, an American who has lived in Singapore for 20 years, began tracking Kim’s flight on flightradar24.com on Saturday.
“He is like Dr. Evil,” he quipped, as he waited near the St. Regis. But, he added, the summit meeting “might be a good thing.” The St. Regis is less than half a mile from the Shangri La Hotel, where Trump is staying. But while the Shangri La is set on a residential stretch of road, the St. Regis sits on a busy commercial boulevard next to a run-down strip mall with two money changers, a pet store and “Maids R Us,” a hiring agency.
There were road cordons and a heavy police presence outside the St. Regis, although officers took a gentle approach when they urged those who had gathered outside the hotel with smartphones and video cameras to move back from the wire barricades.
Outside the Shangri La, about two hours before Trump was scheduled to land, the road was deserted except for a few bystanders. Stanley Peck, 49, a doctor who lives nearby and was finishing up an evening run, stopped to snap a photo of a large sign with a silhouette of a machine-gun-toting police officer just outside the entrance to the hotel. “Police checks comply with orders,” the sign read.
“It is interesting to know that a small country like ours can have these two big boxers coming in for a fight,” said Peck. “We are proud to host something like this.”
Given that just two weeks ago the summit meeting had been canceled, Peck said, the prospects for the meeting had already “come a long way.” He added, “At least they are here and at least they get to shake hands. Hopefully.”
Across the city, Singapore has tightened security for the long-awaited meeting. According to Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, Singapore’s minister for home affairs, about 5,000 police and emergency responders are on duty throughout the summit events.
Already, he said, one traveler from a “regional country” was turned away at the airport on Saturday. Immigration and customs officers had stopped the man after determining that he was “behaving very nervously,” Shanmugam said.
“He couldn’t answer their questions,” Shanmugam said at a news briefing on Sunday. “They checked his mobile phone and saw that he’s been checking through and visiting sites on suicide bombings, and they made an assessment” that he should be barred from entering Singapore. Shanmugam said there had been “two or three” other individuals who had been barred from entering the country in recent days.
At the international media center, hosted at Singapore’s Formula One Racing Center, journalists gathered in a building overlooking a racetrack to wait for the arrival of Kim and Trump.
Some locals were capitalizing on the attention focused on their small country. In a dining hall set up for reporters, the Common Good Co., a consortium of Singaporean food businesses, gave away ice cream in flavors like Kimchi (in honor of Korea) and Durian, a Southeast Asian fruit.
Playing on the themes of the summit meeting, the company displayed signs saying, “Durians May Be Thorny but Relations Needn’t Be” and “Feeling More Trump-ish or Kim-ish today?”
James Kwan, co-director of Common Good, said the company had decided just five days ago to offer the summit-themed items. “We are doing what we can to facilitate peace through food,” he said.