SINGAPORE –– Claiming success at their whirlwind summit, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left Singapore Tuesday, praising their face-to-face progress toward ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Trump and Kim had come together for an unprecedented U.S.-North Korea meeting that seemed unthinkable months earlier.
Both leaders expressed optimism throughout roughly five hours of talks, with Trump thanking Kim afterward “for taking the first bold step toward a bright new future for his people.”
After the summit Trump held forth for more than an hour before the press on what he styled as a historic achievement to avert the prospect of nuclear war. Along the way, Trump tossed out pronouncements on U.S. alliances, human rights, and the nature of the accord that he and Kim had signed.
The details of how and when the North would denuclearize appear yet to be determined, as are the nature of the unspecified “protections” Trump is pledging to Kim and his government. During his press conference, Trump acknowledged that denuclearization won’t happen overnight.
Light on specifics, the Singapore accord largely amounts to an agreement to continue discussions, echoing previous public statements and commitments. It does not, for instance, include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the U.S. and North Korea.
As Trump took a victory lap on the world stage, experts and allies struggled to account for what Trump and Kim had agreed to.
Ahead of the meeting Trump had predicted the two men might strike a nuclear deal or forge a formal end to the Korean War in the course of a single meeting or over several days. But in the hours before the summit, the White House unexpectedly announced Trump would depart Singapore earlier than expected - Tuesday evening - raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back.
“It’s a huge win for Kim Jong Un, who now - if nothing else - has the prestige and propaganda coup of meeting one on one with the president, while armed with a nuclear deterrent,” said Michael Kovrig, a northeast Asia specialist at the International Crisis Group in Washington.