North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US president Donald Trump shook hands, smiling cautiously at the outset of their historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, in which they will look for ways to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
‘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 U. 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.
Trump and Kim were due to hold a one-on-one meeting that could last around two hours, before they are joined by other officials and have lunch together.
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 US secretary of state Mike 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.
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