North Korea promises denuclearisation is on the schedule after Kim Jong-un tells Singapore’s PM ‘entire world is watching’
Kim is accompanied by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, Defence Minister No Kwang-chol, and Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong
A historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is set to take place on Tuesday in Singapore. Here’s what happened on Sunday and early Monday morning.
North Korea promises talk on ‘peace and denuclearisation’
At around 5:12am on Monday, North Korean state media organisation Korean Central News Agency confirmed what was on the schedule for the Trump-Kim summit.
It said that the two leaders would discuss a “permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism” on the Korean Peninsula, denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern.
The report also said Kim was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, Defence Minister No Kwang-chol, and Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong.
Trump arrives by plane
Trump arrived at around 8:20pm, flying directly from Quebec, Canada, where the US leader attended the G7 summit.
The official White House schedule said Trump would head directly to the downtown Shangri-La hotel, where he will be staying. The five-star hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the St Regis hotel where Kim and his delegation are staying.
Asked by a reporter how he was feeling about the summit, Trump said: “Very good.” He then got into his waiting limousine.
Kim meets Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong
After arriving in Singapore, Kim spared no time in heading for the presidential palace for a meeting with the city state’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong.
Kim, dressed in a pinstriped Mao suit, beamed widely as he shook hands with Lee in front of the press. The two appeared to engage in an animated exchange immediately after they sat down for talks.
Kim told Lee: “The entire world is watching the historic summit between the DPRK and the United States of America, and thanks to your sincere efforts … we were able to complete the preparation for the historic summit.”
In attendance were members of Kim’s delegation that included his vice-chairman of the Central Committee Kim Yong-chol and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong-ho.
Kim Jong-un arrives at St Regis hotel
Kim and his delegation arrived at the St Regis hotel in downtown Singapore at 3.40pm.
At Changi Airport, the North Korean leader was greeted by Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who was in Pyongyang on Friday.
Security was tightened around the St Regis before Kim’s arrival. Dozens of North Korean guards were seen joining the Singaporean police to set up security checkpoints. Hundreds of journalists and civilians gathered outside the restricted area to catch a glimpse of the North Korean leader.
Kim’s Mercedes-Benz was unimpeded by traffic as police temporarily blocked entire roads and motorways – a practice not used even for Lee.
A diplomatic source said Kim Yong-chol, Ri Yong-ho and Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong had already arrived at the hotel where they were waiting for Kim.
The St Regis was guarded by police officers from Singapore’s Gurkha Contingent as well as the Special Operations Command – two of Singapore’s most elite internal security teams.
Joining them were North Korean guards in dark suits pinned with red badges showing portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s predecessors.
Tourists, most dressed in Bermuda shorts and T-shirts to cope with Singapore’s sweltering heat, jostled for space with the press for pictures of Kim’s arrival at the hotel – located in the centre of the diplomatic quarter of Tanglin. Some others positioned themselves in the balcony of a neighbouring hotel.
The sheer length of Kim’s cavalcade, which included police cars and an ambulance, meant some of those in vehicles at the tail end of the convoy had to wait up to 15 minutes to enter the hotel after the arrival of the leader.
Kim’s closest aide – his sister – lands at Changi
A second Air China plane, believed to have been carrying Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, landed at Changi Airport, local media reported.
Kim Yo-jong is the leader’s closest aide and accompanied him on both of his visits to China last month. She was also the face of North Korea during the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea in February.
Before the arrival of either of the siblings, an Air Koryo aircraft – North Korea’s national airline – landed in Singapore laden with supplies, including official vehicles.
Kim lands in Singapore
The Air China flight CA61 Boeing 747 carrying Kim Jong-un landed in Singapore shortly before 2.40pm, sources on the ground said.
About 3.05pm, a motorcade of Mercedes-Benz sedans, police cars and a mobile hospital was seen leaving the airport’s VIP complex.
All exits along the motorway on which it was travelling were closed to traffic. Many other roads along the route were lined with curious onlookers.
Kim takes no chances on flight to Singapore
The aircraft most probably carrying Kim Jong-un to Singapore took a mostly inland route while flying over China, according to a flight tracking service.
“North Korea’s utmost concern is Kim’s route, as there have always been big concerns about assassination attempts,” according to Lee Yun-keol, a former bodyguard for North Korea’s ruling family.
Data from Swedish website Flightradar24 showed Kim’s flight initially passed over four Chinese provinces – Hebei, Henan, Hubei and Hunan – and stayed well clear of coastal areas.
After reaching the southern coastal region of Guangxi, it veered off to the Chinese island province of Hainan, apparently in an attempt to maximise the amount of time it spent in Chinese airspace.
Lee, who worked for the North Korean Guard Command’s personal security unit before defecting to South Korea in 2005, said the flight path would have been very carefully chosen.
The website data also showed that there were no civilian planes anywhere near Kim’s flight, despite it passing through a usually busy area for such aircraft.
A source from the South Korean air force said China was clearly controlling all air movements to provide Kim with maximum security.
“It is one of the highest security protocols that an air force can provide to a head of a state,” the person said.
A separate source said earlier that China might send fighter jets to escort Kim through its airspace, not only to aid an ally but also to keep itself as close as possible to the Trump-Kim summit.
“If China does provide the escort, it may be a message directed at the US-ROK alliance that China is strongly backing the Kim regime,” the person said, referring to South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
Another source with the South Korean Air Force said Kim’s decision to fly in a Boeing 747 – rather than the former-Soviet Il-62M plane he has used before – was probably due to status reasons. He would not have wanted his aircraft to look inferior to Trump’s Air Force One – a symbol of US power – the person said.
Boeing 747-400s, which cost about US$250 million, are popular with world leaders as they can be fitted with living spaces, a bedroom and an office. In comparison, the Il-62M is a narrow-body jet with far less room.
The source said the 747 was also better suited to long flights than the Il-66M. Pyongyang to Singapore is more than 4,000km.
While Kim was expected to arrive in Singapore on Sunday afternoon, a group of about 20 people from the North Korean delegation, including KCNA reporters, were seen boarding a bus outside their base at the St Regis hotel at 11am.
Countdown to a historic summit begins
It is all systems go in Singapore as the country readies itself for the arrival of United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ahead of their highly anticipated summit in the city state.
The two leaders are expected to touch down on Sunday, giving them a full day to prepare for Tuesday’s summit.
There was no arrival time set for Kim, but the flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed an Air China aircraft had left Pyongyang just past 8.30am local time.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the Boeing 747 was “known to be a private jet used by the Chinese government to carry its high-level officials, including President Xi Jinping”.
The Singaporean foreign ministry said Kim will meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong later on Sunday.
The US leader will hold bilateral talks with Lee on Monday.
Both sides and the host city have kept a tight lid on the details of Tuesday’s meeting, which will be held at the luxurious Capella hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, off Singapore’s southern tip.
A Bloomberg report early on Sunday said Trump intends to briefly meet Kim “one-on-one” – called a “four-eyes meeting” in regional parlance – at the start of the summit, which is set to get under way at 9am.
The two leaders will later be joined by their closest aides – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton for Trump, and for Kim, his sister Kim Yo-jong, the report said.
Bloomberg quoted a US official as saying a joint declaration could be issued if the meeting went well, and that it was unlikely for it to go beyond Tuesday.
There had been some speculation that the meeting could stretch to Wednesday because Singapore’s enhanced security measures – restrictions on airspace and additional “stop and search” powers for the police – end only on Thursday.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Saturday said: “As of now it is all systems go.”
Speaking after whirlwind trips to Pyongyang and Washington, he said he visited both capitals “to make sure everything was spick and span, and in place, and that there would be no last minute spoilers or difficulties”.
Heightened security measures kicked in at midnight on Sunday in the areas around Capella hotel, the St Regis hotel where Kim is staying, and Shangri-La hotel where Trump is staying.
The St Regis hotel and Shangri-La hotel are within walking distance of each other and are in Singapore’s leafy diplomatic district near the Orchard Road shopping belt.
Access to roads around the hotels was restricted, with police checkpoints set up for vehicles entering and exiting the respective areas around them.
Along with thousands of uniformed police officers, Singapore is deploying a large force from its Police Gurkha Contingent to secure the three hotels involved in the summit.
While there will be an increased police presence on Sentosa, the island resort will not be completely shut off during the period of the summit, authorities have said.
The tiny island welcomes about 20 million visitors a year and is home to long stretches of sheltered beaches and the popular Universal Studios Singapore theme park.
About 60 British colonial-era cannons on the island – once a fort used to protect the port – have been decorated with flowers and olives as a gesture of peace ahead of Tuesday’s summit.