Trump meets with Singapore leader as US races to finalize details for North Korea summit
SINGAPORE — President Trump met Monday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the U.S. delegation raced to complete final arrangements ahead of his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!” Trump wrote on Twitter before departing the Shangri La hotel.
At the Istana, Lee’s official residence, the president shook hands with the prime minister, but Trump declined to answer shouted questions from reporters before the two leaders joined their aides for a luncheon. The U.S. side included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton and senior White House adviser Stephen Miller.
“Thank you very much,” Trump said to reporters, as he turned to enter the banquet hall.
At the table, Trump told his hosts: “We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely. We do appreciate your hospitality, your professionalism, and your friendship.”
The understated photo op belied the intensive behind-the-scenes negotiations that continued between the U.S. and North Korean delegations less than 24 hours before Trump was scheduled to meet Kim at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, just off Singapore’s southern coast.
Earlier in the day, a team of U.S. negotiators arrived at the Ritz-Carlton hotel to meet with its North Korean counterparts to try to nail down final details for the summit, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
Led by Sung Kim, a longtime State Department diplomat who now serves as the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, the U.S. team had held at least five sessions with the Pyongyang delegation over the past two weeks at the demilitarized zone in Korea.
But the two sides reportedly have struggled to close the gap on the crucial question of North Korea’s intentions on denuclearization. Sung Kim was accompanied by Randall Schriver, an assistant secretary for Asia at the Pentagon, Allison Hooker, the National Security Council director for Korea, and other aides.
The group did not respond to shouted questions as members entered past a phalanx of journalists. The North Korean delegation, which was led by Choe Son Hui, the vice foreign minister, also was mum as it arrived a few minutes later.
“Substantive and detailed meetings in #Singapore today,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter, along with photos of Sung Kim and North Korean officials at the negotiating table.
In another tweet, Pompeo said the United States remains “committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump has sought to lower expectations for the summit in recent days, suggesting that it would be the start of a lengthy process to get Pyongyang to begin dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
After his meeting with Lee, Trump was scheduled to visit diplomats at the U.S. Embassy here, but he had nothing else listed on his public schedule. Trump spent some of the morning tweeting angrily about imbalances on trade and military costs between the United States and its European allies.
“Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on Trade anymore. We must put the American worker first!” Trump wrote.
It was not clear what Kim Jong Un, who arrived Sunday afternoon, was planning to do on Monday or whether he intended to leave his hotel, the St. Regis, about a half-mile from where Trump’s delegation is staying.