SINGAPORE (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to depart early from his unprecedented summit with Kim Jong Un, the White House said Monday, declaring that nuclear talks with North Korea have moved “more quickly than expected.”
Trump had been scheduled to fly back to Washington on Wednesday morning after spending Tuesday with the North Korean leader in Singapore. But on the eve of the summit, he altered his schedule, opting to return at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday after a full day of meetings with Kim — almost 15 hours earlier than previously anticipated.
“The discussions between the United States and North Korea are ongoing and have moved more quickly than expected,” the White House said in a statement.
It wasn’t immediately clear what specific progress, if any, had been made in preliminary discussions between U.S. and North Korean officials in the run-up to the Tuesday summit. In fact, only hours before the White House announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had seemed to lower expectations for the meeting, which Trump had earlier predicted could potentially yield an on-the-spot deal to end the Korean War.
“We are hopeful this summit will have set the conditions for future successful talks,” Pompeo said on Monday evening.
The summit — the first ever between a sitting American president and North Korea’s leader — was to kick off at 9 a.m., the White House said. After greeting each other, the two leaders planned to sit for a one on one meeting that a U.S. official said could last up to two hours, with only translators joining them. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the plans and insisted on anonymity.
The White House said the daylong summit would also include a working lunch and a larger meeting involving aides to both leaders. On the U.S. side, Trump was to be joined by Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, national security adviser John Bolton and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, along with a few others.
Before flying home, Trump planned to speak to reporters in Singapore after concluding the summit, the White House said.
The last-minute change of schedule came as both sides finalized preparations for the meeting. Trump on Monday forecast a “nice” outcome, while Kim spent the day out of view.
It’s the summit eve in Singapore. Global anticipation of the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s third-generation autocrat Kim Jong Un is close to feverish. It’s the biggest, and most mind-boggling, summit of its kind this century — and probably for several decades.
Imagine if President George W. Bush had met Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for face-to-face negotiations in January 2003 in Egypt instead of the U.S.-led invasion going ahead two months later and you get a sense of how remarkable this summit is.
As the hours count down to the Tuesday morning meeting, here’s a look at what happened in Singapore and the Koreas on Monday.
ELEVENTH HOUR MEETINGS, BRIEFINGS AND AN ABSENCE
— Trump met Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as Kim did on Sunday, was feted at lunch with an early birthday celebration (his birthday is June 14), and then went back to his hotel, the swanky Shangri-La. Along the way, he offered “that things can work out very nicely” with North Korea.
— North Korean and American delegations met at the Ritz Carlton., not once, but twice. Last-minute bargaining, leverage hunting and final protocol details perhaps on the agenda before their bosses shake hands and sit down.
— U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed reporters, insisting Washington is prepared to take actions to provide North Korea with “sufficient certainty” that denuclearization “is not something that ends badly for them.”
— South Korean President Moon Jae-in has no current plans to join Trump and Kim at the end of their summit. Moon had expressed hope that the meeting will lead to a three-way declaration also including South Korea on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War. But Moon has to be present when and if such a document is signed.
WHERE’S KIM TODAY?
— Lying low at the St. Regis hotel, preparing for Tuesday? Only his inner circle knows. There was no sighting of him in Singapore on Monday. Barring a nocturnal venture outside his heavily guarded hotel, he may not resurface in public until summit time. North Koreans were told by state media for the first time Monday that Kim is meeting Trump. One man exclaimed, “I know that Singapore is a very hot country so I wish that our respected marshal stays healthy and comes back in good health.”
— Trump and Kim will start their historic summit at Sentosa Island with a one-on-one session with translators. After that no one really knows how it will play out. Anything is possible, from a grandiose declaration that the Korean War will be formally ended in the near future, with the far more complex lynchpin of denuclearization on the back burner, to a rapid collapse of talks with someone abruptly walking away. Stay tuned.
Read all of AP’s summit coverage here: http://apne.ws/MPbJ5Tv