What’s on the table in Singapore? A birthday cake and North Korean denuclearisation
Nukes and normalising relations are the issues facing the two leaders at what US President Donald Trump has called a ‘one-time shot’ at peace
Complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, or CVID – will there be any mention of this crucial American demand when US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet on Tuesday?
That appeared to be the main issue of debate on Monday as top aides from both sides met for last-minute talks on the joint communique to be issued after the historic summit between the two leaders.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter that both sides held “substantive and detailed meetings” in a post accompanied with pictures of the veteran American diplomat Sung Kim, a Korea expert, meeting with Pyongyang officials.
North Korea’s delegation included Choe Son-hui, a top diplomat who handles ties with Washington.
The meeting, held in the morning at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Singapore Marina Bay district, lasted about two hours. Delegates from both sides who were spotted by the South China Morning Post appeared expressionless as they left. A second, three-and-a-half hour meeting was held in the afternoon.
Early pre-brief with my @StateDept team. Amb Kim meets with #DPRK today. We remain committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula pic.twitter.com/ybtrMJuqK8
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 11, 2018
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 11, 2018
A South Korean parliamentary source told the Post that both sides remained locked in debate over the content of the joint communique.
“They are still debating over whether to put [the term] ‘CVID’ in the final draft,” the source said.
Trump’s administration has insisted that CVID is a foremost requirement that Pyongyang must meet for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
If the North Korean leader did indeed agree to abandon his country’s nuclear weapons programme, then Trump would be expected to ease sanctions on the hermit kingdom and pave the way for much-needed foreign direct investment in the country.
Pompeo hinted that Trump was unlikely to waver on this demand, tweeting earlier on Monday that the US remained “committed” to CVID.
Another acronym used in nuclear circles is CVIG, or a complete, verifiable and irreversible guarantee of a negotiated condition.
The term references Kim’s likely demand for formal guarantees that his regime would be left untouched if it complied with CVID.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency commented for the first time on the landmark meeting, describing it as an opportunity for the two sides to exchange “wide-ranging and profound views” on bilateral ties.
The talks would also involve “building a permanent and durable peacekeeping mechanism” on the Korean peninsula and “the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, the agency said.
It said the meeting would be held “under the great attention and expectation of the whole world”.
Boo Seung-chan, a research fellow at South Korea’s Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies, told the Post that both sides were likely “focusing their energy on… setting a timetable for CVID and CVIG”.
Meanwhile, there was no indication of Kim’s schedule for the whole of Monday, ahead of his meeting with Trump that begins at 9am local time on Tuesday (9pm Eastern time on Monday).
Trump held talks with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after noon, making his first public appearance since arriving in the Lion City on Sunday night.
He told Lee “we have a very interesting meeting tomorrow and I think things can work out very nicely”.
“We appreciate your hospitality and professionalism and your friendship,” Trump told Lee, whose government is forking out some S$20 million (US$15 million) to host the summit. The cost includes the hotel bill for the North Korean delegation.
The Singaporean delegation also surprised the US leader with a birthday cake. Trump turns 72 on Thursday.
Trump later spoke to his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, by telephone, South Korea’s presidential office said.
The office, known as the Blue House, did not provide further details but said in a statement it would give a briefing later about the phone conversation.
Earlier, Trump had said that Tuesday’s meeting was a “one-time shot” for Kim.
“I feel that Kim Jong-un wants to do something great for his people,” the US leader told reporters in Quebec, Canada, where he had attended the G7 summit.
“He has that opportunity, and he won’t have that opportunity again.”
How much progress will come out of the talks has been the subject of speculation because of unconfirmed reports that Kim intends to leave Singapore at 2pm on Tuesday, just five hours after the summit’s scheduled start on the island resort of Sentosa.
Trump is expected to leave on Wednesday.
Asked about the leaders’ likely departure times, a Singaporean source involved in planning the summit would say only that the host city had factored in the “fluidity of the situation” and was prepared for last-minute schedule changes.