Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday ahead of their historic summit.
Trump’s arrival came around five hours after Kim, who landed in Singapore wearing his trademark dark ‘Mao suit’ and distinctive high-cut hairstyle on his longest trip overseas as head of state.
When Trump and Kim meet at the five-star Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa on Tuesday, they will be making history even before they start.
Enemies since the Korean War, the leaders of North Korea and the United States have never met previously – or even spoken on the phone.
Kim arrived at Changi Airport on an Air China jet on Sunday afternoon, local time, amid huge security precautions on the city-state island. Two decoy flights were also dispatched.
He was driven into the city-state in a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, including an ambulance, with North Korean television cameramen filming his progress through the sunroofs.
A large limousine with a North Korean flag was seen surrounded by other black vehicles with tinted windows as it sped through the city’s streets to the St. Regis Hotel, where China’s President Xi Jinping once stayed.
Just a few hours after his arrival, Kim met with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana presidential palace.
Shortly after Kim’s departure, Trump flew into Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base aboard Air Force One, looking to lay the groundwork for a nuclear deal with one of America’s most bitter long-time foes.
Earlier, North Korea’s capacity for distraction and sleight of hand was on show as two decoy flights also made their way to Singapore from North Korea.
In all, three aircraft – including the North Korean leader’s private plane – made their way to Singapore from Pyongyang airport, a facility that frequently sees fewer than three international flights a day.
One of them was the ageing Soviet-made Ilyushin-62 that is Kim’s personal jet – officially known as ‘Chammae-1’, or Goshawk-1, after the North’s national bird but perhaps more memorably dubbed ‘Air Force Un’.
But while Singapore is well within its range, questions have been raised about its reliability and Kim, it turned out, was not on board.
Instead he flew on an Air China Boeing 747. According to flight tracking website Flightradar24, it took off using flight number CA122, a standard designation for the airline’s route from Pyongyang to Beijing.
In midair, it changed its callsign to CA061 and headed south, landing in Singapore at 2.36pm local time.
In Singapore, the jet’s high-profile passenger was met by Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
‘Welcomed Chairman Kim Jong Un, who has just arrived in Singapore,’ Balakrishnan said on Twitter, alongside a picture of him shaking hands with Kim wearing glasses and a dark Maoist suit.
Aside from three official photographs released by the Singapore government, there had been no public sighting of Kim nearly two hours after he landed.
Located just off Singapore’s diplomatic district and a stone’s throw away from the Orchard Road shopping belt, the modernist St Regis is tucked between an ageing building dotted with carpet shops and a sleepy high-end neighbourhood mall.
Rooms at the establishment start at Sg$320 ($240) a night.
On the 20th floor, the ostentatiously opulent 335-square metre (3,606 square feet) Presidential Suite, where Kim was believed likely to stay, features a Marc Chagall artwork and a white baby grand piano.
Its rooms are ‘lined with gold, and accented with precious metals like brass, onyx and silver’, the hotel says on its website. It does not give prices but the list price of a similar facility in New York is $35,000 a night.
But who will pick up the bill for the North Koreans’ stay has been the subject of much speculation.
Where will the summit be held? The macabre history of Sentosa Island where Trump and Kim will meet
Restaurants have been closed and a new surveillance camera was installed on Singapore’s Sentosa Island – a popular tropical getaway that has been thrust into the spotlight ahead of a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
The resort island plans to keep welcoming tourists this week despite boosted security for the summit at the 112-room Capella Singapore hotel.
A group of journalists gathered outside the hotel and across the road, waiting for signs that officials had arrived. But only authorised vehicles were allowed to enter, and hotel restaurants were not taking reservations until after the summit.
Police have marked the island and some of its surrounding waters as a ‘special event area,’ where loud-hailers, flags or banners over a metre-long or wide are banned.
Located a quarter mile off the coast of Singapore, Sentosa is no stranger to celebrities and VIPs. It is linked to the city by a bridge and home to high-end resorts, golf courses and a large amusement park.
But the macabre history of the island, which will become the venue of the historic summit on Tuesday, is less known.
In the 18th century, when Singapore was a British colony, an unknown epidemic killed off most of its population of 60. Only two households survived.
During World War II, the British used artillery forts and a battery on the island to unsuccessfully fend off a Japanese invasion, which transformed it into a prisoner-of-war camp.
It’s no wonder the island was known as Pulau Blakang Mati, which roughly translates as ‘island of death from behind.’
In 1970, the island was renamed after a nationwide contest. Sentosa was subsequently developed as a resort and expanded on reclaimed land.
Nevertheless, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s prime minister from 1959 to 1990, used the island to hold long-term political prisoners who were often detained without trial. Chia Thye Poh, a former member of parliament, spent 23 years in jail and under loose house arrest there.
He worked as a freelance translator for the island’s management, before he was allowed to visit the mainland for a short time every day and set free.
But these days, Sentosa is a popular resort island, with numerous beaches, hotels and restaurants, and attracts around 19 million visitors every year.
The North’s economy has suffered from years of mismanagement and is now subject to multiple sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.
Pyongyang has a history of trying to have others pay for its travel. Seoul paid for its delegates to this year’s Winter Olympics in the South.
Journalists deported ‘for trespassing at the residence of the North Korean ambassador’
Two South Korean journalists arrested on suspicion of trespassing at the residence of the North Korean ambassador have been deported.
‘I think it’s a bad idea in any country to break into ambassador’s residences. No different in Singapore. Case closed. They have been asked to leave,’ Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.
The two men represented the Korean Broadcasting System News and were arrested on Friday. They were not accredited as media personnel in Singapore.
The national broadcaster apologised for the incident in its Friday evening newscast.
Another KBS journalist and an interpreter are also under investigation. The maximum penalty for criminal trespass is a jail term of three months and a fine of 1,500 Singapore dollars.
Speaking to the media ahead of Tuesday’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Shanmugam added that authorities have had to prevent three or four individuals from entering the country.
On Saturday, immigration authorities turned away ‘someone from a regional country’ who was found to be visiting websites on suicide bombing, he said.
Australian Zaky Mallah, who was once tried on terrorism charges, was prevented from entering the city-state on Thursday due to his history of extremism.
Police have stepped up security around ‘special event areas’ such as the summit’s venue on Sentosa Island, and hotels where Trump and Kim are staying.
But a Seoul presidential spokesman said it was ‘not considering it at all at the moment’, while the US has insisted it will not foot the bill – and is not asking anyone else to do so.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday his government was spending around Sg$20 million to host the summit – around half of it on security.
‘It’s a cost that we are willing to pay. It’s our contribution to an international endeavour which is in our profound interests,’ he said. He did not mention the North Koreans’ hotel bill.
Meanwhile, the small island nation of Singapore, which prides itself on law and order, is feeling the pressure of more than 3,000 members of the press arriving for the historic summit.
The heavy media presence along with stringent security measures for the summit has added to the frenzy unusual for the laid-back tropical state.
For more than a week, journalists have been staking out Singapore’s luxury hotels, airports and government buildings to catch a glimpse of officials involved in summit preparations.
Unruly ones have already crossed red lines.
Singapore officials said Sunday that two South Korean journalists arrested on suspicion of trespassing at the residence of the North Korean ambassador have been deported.
Police announced on Friday that they arrested two journalists from national broadcaster KBS. Another KBS journalist and an interpreter were also under investigation.
Responding to the arrests, South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom urged journalists from his country, where the free-wheeling press is a norm, to behave. KBS apologised for the incident in their Friday evening newscast.
Singapore is not used to a rowdy press as most of the mainstream media are controlled by government-linked companies and independent news websites are wary of strict defamation laws that government leaders have used to silence critics.
Besides journalists, authorities also have to contend with Kim and Trump impersonators.
On Friday, Kim impersonator Lee Howard Ho Wun was questioned by police when he arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport.
Lee, who also uses the name Howard X, said he was told to stay away from Sentosa Island, where the summit will be held, and around Shangri-La Hotel, where Trump is expected to stay.
Lee said the police asked if he had been involved in protests around the world, including those by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, where he lives.
‘I’ve never encountered this at any other country. I guess they could have deported me, but then the headline the next day would read `Kim Jong Un gets deported from Singapore,’ which I’m sure they wouldn’t want,’ Lee said.
Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said that all travelers could be subjected to additional interviews and checks.
Kim is set to meet with Trump on Tuesday in what’s shaping up to be one of the most unusual summits in modern history.
Despite the initial high stakes of a meeting meant to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, the talks have been portrayed by Trump in recent days more as a get-to-know-each-other meeting. Trump calls expected meeting with Kim Jong-Un ‘mission of peace’
Trump said on Thursday that he didn’t think he had to prepare very much for the summit and that ‘it’s about attitude.’ But some US officials have questioned whether Trump was doing enough to get up to speed.
Trump told reporters in Canada on Saturday any agreement with Kim would be ‘spur of the moment,’ underscoring the uncertain outcome of the meeting.
That came as Trump threw the Group of Seven’s efforts to show a united front into disarray after he became angry with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and said he might double down on import tariffs by hitting the sensitive auto industry.
Trump’s bombshell announcement that he was backing out of the G7 communique, made after he left the summit in Canada early, torpedoed what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade dispute between Washington and its top allies.
Trump has also raised the possibility of further summits and an agreement ending the Korea War by replacing the armistice signed in 1953 with a peace treaty. China and South Korea would have to sign off on any legal treaty.
Trump departed the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada, early, telling reporters he was embarking on a ‘mission of peace.’
He said: ‘I will be on a mission of peace and will carry in my heart the hearts of millions of people, all over the world.
‘We really think North Korea will be a tremendous place in a very short period of time and we appreciate everything that’s going on.’
He added to reporters: ‘It’s unknown territory in the truest sense, but I really feel confident.
‘I feel that Kim Jong-un wants to do something great for his people and he has that opportunity and he won’t have that opportunity again.
‘It’s never been done before. And obviously, what has been done before hasn’t worked.’
Raising expectations, Trump had also said the outcome of the meeting will rely heavily on his own instincts.
The US president said he will know ‘within the first minute’ of meeting Kim whether the North Korean leader is serious about the nuclear negotiations.
Trump frequently has boasted of his negotiating prowess as a former real estate developer, and his ability to read people, even though his businesses have declared multiple bankruptcies.
‘I think I’ll know pretty quickly whether or not, in my opinion, something positive will happen. And if I think it won’t happen, I’m not going to waste my time. I don’t want to waste his time,’ he said.
‘This is a leader who really is an unknown personality,’ Trump added of Kim.
‘People don’t know much about him. I think that he’s going to surprise on the upside, very much on the upside.’
White House aides described Trump in the days after receiving Kim’s initial invitation as being obsessed by visions of winning the Nobel Peace Prize and using `The Art of the Deal’ to put his mark on the global order.
But in recent weeks, Trump’s enthusiasm has been tempered somewhat by the challenge of deal-making with such an unpredictable opponent.
And there are worries from the White House to East Asian allies that Trump’s desire for an agreement will lead him to accept any deal – even if it’s a bad one.
The Trump-Kim meeting has captured intense global attention after a turn to diplomacy in recent months replaced, for the time being, serious fears of war last year amid North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
The North, many experts believe, stands on the brink of being able to target the entire US mainland with its nuclear-armed missiles.
While there’s deep skepticism that Kim will quickly give up those hard-won nukes, there’s also some hope that diplomacy can replace the animosity between the U.S. and the North.
The North Korean autocrat’s every move will be followed by 3,000 journalists up until he shakes hands with Trump.
He has only publicly left his country three times since taking power after his despot father’s death in late 2011 – twice traveling to China and once across his shared border with the South to the southern part of the Demilitarized Zone in recent summits with the leaders of China and South Korea respectively.
There’s a flurry of speculation about what results might come from the summit. The initial goal was the ‘complete denuclearisation’ of the North.
Pyongyang has said it’s willing to deal away its entire nuclear arsenal if the United States provides it with a reliable security assurance and other benefits.
But many, if not all analysts, say that this is highly unlikely, given how hard it has been for Kim to build his program and that the weapons are seen as the major guarantee to his unchecked power.
Any nuclear deal will hinge on North Korea’s willingness to allow unfettered outside inspections of the country’s warheads and radioactive materials, much of which is likely kept in a vast complex of underground facilities.
Past nuclear deals have crumbled over North Korea’s reluctance to open its doors to outsiders.
But one result of the summit could be the opening of a McDonald’s in North Korea as a reward and security guarantee for cutting back its nuclear ambitions.
Chung-in Moon, a special adviser to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, recently revealed that North Korea wants American investments to deliver a boost to the nation’s economy.
Officials from Kim’s regime said they would view American investments as a vital guarantee to their country’s security at a dinner that followed the recent historic summit between Kim and Moon.
Chung-in suggested the fast food chain – a symbol of American culture and power – and a Trump hotel could be businesses that open in Pyongchang.
Another possibility from the summit is a deal to end the Korean War, which North Korea has long demanded, presumably, in part, to get US troops off the Korean Peninsula and, eventually, pave the way for a North Korean-led unified Korea.
The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, but the war technically continues today because instead of a difficult-to-negotiate peace treaty, military officers for the US-led United Nations, North Korea and China signed an armistice that halted the fighting.
The North may see a treaty – and its presumed safety assurances from Washington – as its best way of preserving the Kim family dynasty.
The ensuing recognition as a ‘normal country’ could then allow sanctions relief, and later international aid and investment.
Kim may also be interested in getting aid and eventual investment to stabilise and then rebuild a crumbling economy.
Just meeting with Trump will also give Kim recognition as the leader of a ‘normal’ country and as an equal of the US leader.
A timeline showing the build-up to the historic Trump-Kim summit
The upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore will kick off a potentially lengthy diplomatic process to try to resolve the standoff over Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Here’s a look at how the diplomacy took shape this year:
January 1: After an unusually provocative 2017 during which North Korea tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and three intercontinental ballistic missiles, Kim tries to initiate diplomacy in his annual new year’s address. He calls for improved relations and engagement with South Korea, though adds that he has a nuclear button on his desk. Trump responds on Twitter that he has a bigger and more powerful nuclear button, adding ‘and my Button works!’
January 9: North and South Korean officials meet at a border village and agree on North Korea sending athletes and delegates to the Winter Olympics in the South. Hundreds of North Koreans go to the Pyeongchang Games in February, including Kim’s sister, who conveys her brother’s desire for an inter-Korean summit with South Korea’s president.
March 5-6: South Korea’s presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong visits Kim in Pyongyang and reports that the North Korean leader is willing to discuss the fate of his nuclear arsenal with the United States.
March 8: South Korean envoys meet Trump in Washington and deliver an invitation from Kim to meet; Trump accepts.
March 27: Kim makes a surprise visit to Beijing for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an apparent move to strengthen his leverage ahead of any talks with Trump.
April 18: Trump confirms that Mike Pompeo, then the CIA chief, had met Kim secretly in North Korea and said ‘a good relationship was formed’ heading into the anticipated summit.
April 21: North Korea says it has suspended nuclear and ICBM tests and plans to close its nuclear test site as part of a shift in its national focus to developing its economy. Trump tweets: ‘This is very good news for North Korea and the World.’
April 27: Kim holds a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The leaders announce aspirational goals of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace.
May 7: Kim meets Xi again in China and calls for stronger strategic co-operation between the traditional allies.
May 9: Pompeo, now US secretary of state, makes another visit to Pyongyang to prepare for the planned Trump-Kim summit. North Korea releases three Americans who had been imprisoned.
May 10: Trump announces he will meet with Kim in Singapore on June 12. He tweets: ‘We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!’
May 12: North Korea says it will hold a ceremony to dismantle its nuclear test site between May 23-25.
May 16: North Korea abruptly cancels a high-level meeting with the South and threatens to cancel the summit with Trump too in protest over US-South Korean military exercises and US comments that the North should follow the ‘Libya model’ of denuclearisation by eliminating everything upfront. The North says it will not be unilaterally pressured into abandoning its nuclear programme.
May 22: Trump and Moon meet at the White House to discuss the Trump-Kim talks. The South Korean president says the ‘fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge’ on the meeting in Singapore.
May 24: A senior North Korean diplomat calls US Vice President Mike Pence a ‘political dummy’ for his comments on the North and says it is up to the Americans whether they ‘meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at (a) nuclear-to-nuclear showdown’. North Korea dismantles its nuclear testing ground in front of foreign journalists, but Trump announces hours later that he is pulling out of the summit, citing the North’s ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’.
May 25: North Korea attempts damage control, saying it is still willing to hold talks with the United States ‘at any time, (in) any format’. Moon calls Trump’s move to cancel the summit ‘very perplexing’ and says Washington and Pyongyang should get the talks back on track.
May 26: Kim and Moon meet at a border village in an effort to revive the summit with Trump. Moon says Kim reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearise their peninsula but also said he was unsure whether he could trust the United States to provide a credible security guarantee in return.
May 30: North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years, arrives in New York for pre-summit negotiations with Pompeo.
June 1: After meeting Kim Yong Chol at the White House, Trump says his meeting with Kim Jong Un is back on for June 12.
June 5: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweets that the Trump-Kim meeting will be held at Singapore’s Capella Hotel.