President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea will hold the first-ever meeting between leaders of their two countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying with them hopes to end seven decades of hostility and the threat of a nuclear confrontation.
At stake is the American goal of ridding North Korea of its nuclear arsenal, Mr. Kim’s desire to remove American weapons from the Korean Peninsula and to be recognized as a player on the world stage, and international hopes to ease the North’s poverty, provocations and extreme isolation.
The talks begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday — 9 p.m. Eastern on Monday — and could even open the way to an official end to the Korean War, which concluded in 1953 with a truce but never a peace treaty. South Korea will not be at the table, nor will China, the North’s most crucial backer.
The summit meeting is the most prominent moment yet in international affairs for both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim. Not long ago, they were better known for threatening each other’s countries with destruction than for peace overtures.
• The vast scope of North Korea’s atomic program means ending it would be the most challenging case of nuclear disarmament in history.
• The meeting holds the risk of exposing unbridgeable gaps, leaving both sides fuming, with little to show for all the fanfare.
• Mr. Kim and his entourage left his hotel Monday night, and the media scrambled before catching up with him at the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
As the meeting approached, American and North Korean officials worked to hammer out a joint statement the two leaders might make at the close of their talks. But it was unclear that they could do more than reach a broad, general agreement on tough questions like nuclear disarmament.
Mr. Trump told other Asian leaders he was confident about the prospects for the meeting, but the two sides may have fundamentally understandings of some crucial issues, like “denuclearization” of the peninsula.
To American officials, that has meant Pyongyang giving up its atomic weapons program, but North Korea has suggested that it would also mean a reduction or even elimination of American arms in the region.
It is also unclear whether the Trump administration would go further than its predecessors in assuring North Korea that, in exchange for concessions, it would be secure from attack by the United States.
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Mr. Kim arrived for the meeting on Sunday not on one of his country’s aircraft, but aboard an Air China jumbo jet — an American-made Boeing 747.
The choice of a plane supplied by China, North Korea’s closest ally, highlighted the paucity of resources in Mr. Kim’s country. The Air China jet is newer, bigger, more comfortable — and, aviation experts say, more reliable — than Mr. Kim’s Soviet-made jets.
Other members of the North Korean team arrived, along with Mr. Kim’s limousine, on North Korean-owned aircraft.
But Mr. Kim rode in a specially outfitted 747 that has been used to carry top Chinese officials. His usual plane, an Ilyushin-62, was built around 1980, and the type has been out of production since the mid-1990’s.
“The president and the entire U.S. team are looking forward to tomorrow’s summit,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement on Monday.
That team includes, among others, Mr. Pompeo; John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Matthew Pottinger, the National Security Council’s top Asia hand.
The administration also recruited Sung Y. Kim, a seasoned North Korea negotiator currently serving as the American ambassador to the Philippines.
Among the North Koreans attending the summit meeting is Kim Yong-chol, a former leader of North Korea’s main spy agency, who now serves as a vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party. He had visited Mr. Trump at the White House on June 1, delivering a personal letter from Mr. Kim.
Ri Yong-ho, the foreign minister, and Choe Son-hui, a vice foreign minister, have haggled with the United States for decades over their country’s nuclear weapons program. Ms. Choe called Vice President Mike Pence “ignorant and stupid” last month, briefly jeopardizing the summit meeting. No Kwang-chol became minister of the People’s Armed Forces during a recent reshuffle of the top military leadership.
Kim Yo-jong, Mr. Kim’s only sister, has been an important face of North Korea’s recent diplomatic overtures. Mr. Kim sent her to South Korea in February to invite Mr. Moon to a summit meeting. She is in charge of the party’s Department of Propaganda and Agitation, one of the most powerful agencies in North Korea.
The summit meeting in Singapore is on track after some fraught on-again, off-again moments.
Where will the leaders meet? Who will be there? What’s on the agenda?
We’ve put together a primer to the high-stakes talks that breaks down the key players and the key issues.