GUARDIAN – American and North Korean officials have met in Singapore to narrow differences between the two countries as US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un prepare for their historic summit in the city state on Tuesday.
While North Korea spoke of establishing a new “permanent peace-keeping mechanism” and its state-run news agency hailed a “new era” in relations with the US, Trump tweeted on Monday about how pleased he was to be in Singapore.
A US official affirmed that the first session of the Tuesday morning talks would be between two leaders alone with translators but no advisors and aides. They would enter the negotiating room only after that first one-on-one session was over. The official said it was unclear how long that first session would last.
It was reported that Kim planned to fly back to North Korea in the early afternoon on Thursday, leaving very little time for actual negotiations, although there is still considerable uncertainty about what a deal between the leaders would look like.
The Pyongyang administration envisages denuclearisation as a gradual and somewhat amorphous process, in which both sides take phased reciprocal steps to defuse tensions with the ultimate, but distant goal of nuclear disarmament.
The Trump administration has previously insisted on “complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament” (CVID) of North Korea, with the emphasis on unilateral steps by Pyongyang rewarded by US security assurances.
President Trump has, however, significantly softened the US negotiating stance in the immediate run-up to the summit, accepting the prospect of an open-ended negotiations involving multiple future summits.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, muddied the picture further on Monday, by melding the two concepts in a tweet showing him at breakfast with US negotiators, saying the US remained “committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”
The North Korea state run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said Tuesday’s meeting would discuss “wide-ranging and profound views on the issue of establishing new DPRK-US relations, the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula.”
The KCNA news agency heralded the summit as part of a “changed era.”
US and North Korean negotiators met in a Singapore hotel on Monday, seeking to clarify the shape of Tuesday’s summit, where Trump has said he intends to be guided by instinct.
Most observers predicted that the outcome would be a short and vague statement build around the ambiguous aim of the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” leaving it to later bilateral meetings to negotiate what that would mean in practice.