North Korean Nuclear Talks Are Thrown Off Balance as Accounts by U.S. and Pyongyang Clash

Pyongyang called the result of a two-day visit by Pompeo ‘regrettable’ and said it raised the ‘risk of war’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Committee upon arrival at Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee upon arrival at Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday. PHOTO: KCNA/ZUMA PRESS

SEOUL—The fate of negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program were cast into doubt Saturday after Pyongyang called the result of a two-day visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “regrettable” and said it raised the “risk of war.”

Pyongyang’s statement offered a sharply contradictory account of the outcome of the talks after Mr. Pompeo departed the country saying that talks had been held in “good faith” and “progress” had been made on central issues.

In an early sign of the disconnect, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who met Mr. Pompeo on both previous visits to Pyongyang, did not meet the U.S. secretary of state.

The State Department declined to comment on the reaction from Pyongyang or the future of the process.

Cooperation between the two sides has been mixed since President Donald Trump met the North Korean leader in Singapore last month. At the meeting, both agreed to work toward “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” without specifying key details.

“These are complicated issues but we made progress on almost all of the central issues,” Mr. Pompeo said in Pyongyang on Saturday before boarding the flight to Tokyo. “Some places, a great deal of progress, other places there’s still more work to be done.”

Hours later, a spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry said U.S. demands for specific pledges on complete denuclearization violated the spirit of the agreement reached in Singapore.

“The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand[s] for denuclearization,” the spokesman said in a statement released in Pyongyang’s state media. “All of which run counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks.”

The weekend talks between Mr. Pompeo and General Kim Yong Chol, one of the North Korean leader’s top lieutenants, have been the highest-level engagement between the two countries since the summit on June 12.

It isn’t the first time North Korea has attacked the U.S. to gain leverage since entering into discussions with the Trump administration. Pyongyang issued a sharply worded statement ahead of planned U.S. military exercises with South Korea that briefly prompted Mr. Trump to withdraw from the summit in Singapore, which ultimately went ahead as planned.

The North Korean statement warned Washington against old methods that raise “cancerous” issues that “amplify distrust and risk of war.” Such an approach could shake North Korea’s “unwavering determination to denuclearize,” the spokesman said in the statement.

What Would Peace Look Like on the Korean Peninsula?

The two Koreas have technically been at war for more than six decades. That’s about to change, say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in. But what would peace on the peninsula look like?

“I think it’s a pretty bad sign. Is this the end—I don’t know,” Joseph Yun, a U.S. special representative for North Korea policy who retired earlier this year, told The Wall Street Journal. “I think they want to completely reduce U.S. expectations.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how the discord would impact the process after Mr. Pompeo told reporters on Saturday that low-level working groups had been established to iron out the details of the agreement.

Mr. Yun said Pyongyang appeared to believe it had offered concessions in stopping nuclear tests.

“From their point of view, you can see that they feel they’ve given something,” Mr. Yun said. “But they don’t get any feeling that Washington is talking with any degree of consistency.”

Senior Trump advisers have expressed skepticism about the talks and last week National Security Adviser John Bolton said Mr. Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang would aim to map out a path to dismantling the bulk of North Korea’s nuclear assets within a year.

Doubt over North Korea’s commitment to its nuclear promise in Singapore were already emerging before the trip. Satellite imagery published in reports last week showed North Korea is rapidly expanding a weapons-manufacturing plant that produces solid fuel missiles and has upgraded its main nuclear research facilities.

Timelapse: North Korea’s Missile Factory Being Built

Satellite imagery shows North Korea has been expanding a major missile-manufacturing facility in the city of Hamhung even as Washington pressures Pyongyang to abandon the weapon program. Photo/Video: Planet Labs

Pyongyang is also working on a submarine capable of launching a nuclear-armed ballistic missile, according to a senior South Korean official.

Mr. Pompeo said that the satellite reports had been raised during the meetings and the two parties had discussed how to implement the agreement made at the Singapore summit.

“No one walked away from that; they’re still equally committed, Chairman Kim is still committed,” he said, hours before the North Korean statement.

Another potential stumbling block is the repatriation of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War between 1950-1953.

Mr. Trump told a rally in Minnesota on June 21 that the transfer of more than 200 sets of remains had already taken place, as per the summit agreement. But weeks later, Defense Department officials were still waiting for the promised remains at the border with empty coffins and no explanation for the delay.

When asked about the remains on Saturday, Mr. Pompeo demurred on a timeline for the repatriation, saying the Defense Department would meet the North Koreans for a discussion about the process on July 12.

“The repatriation of remains will take place at the border and that process will begin to develop over the days that follow,” he said.

The secretary of state also declined to elaborate on whether the U.S. and North Korea had come closer to agreeing on a timeline for denuclearization or when Pyongyang might provide a declaration about its assets—both seen as crucial steps in the process.

“I’m not going to get into details of our conversations, but we spent a good deal of time talking about each of those two things and I think we made progress in every element of our discussions,” Mr. Pompeo said.

In return for denuclearization, the U.S. has dangled the prospect of economic investment once sanctions have been lifted.

Still, the North Koreans expressed continued confidence in Mr. Trump: “We maintain our trust in President Trump,” the statement said.

Mr. Pompeo spoke to Mr. Trump on a secure line earlier Saturday after a first day of talks, with Mr. Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly on the line, U.S. officials said after the call. No account was provided of the discussion.

Mr. Pompeo was accompanied to Pyongyang by a delegation from the State Department, National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Mr. Pompeo had been “very firm” in seeking three main goals: the complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances and the repatriation of U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Mr. Pompeo is expected to meet with Japanese and South Korean officials in Tokyo, who are key regional allies in the process with North Korea.

Officials in Tokyo fear that their interests may be sidelined as Washington pursues talks with North Korea, and have expressed alarm about U.S. concessions such the suspension of major military exercises with South Korea.

Pyongyang downplayed the U.S. concession in its statement on Saturday, saying that the exercises could resume at any time, while the U.S. demand it destroy military facilities would be impossible to reverse if Washington retreated from its commitments.

“Classic North Korean negotiating tactics: Pocket concessions from the United States while stringing out discussions on their own commitments,” said Abraham Denmark, Asia director at Washington-based think tank The Wilson Center. “This is a rejection of U.S. demands for unilateral denuclearization by North Korea, and a clear message that the U.S. will need to give up more to make progress.

Write to Jessica Donati at and Andrew Jeong at


North Korea says US attitude in talks was ‘extremely regrettable’

North Korea has accused the US of demanding unilateral denuclearization and said their attitude was “extremely regrettable.” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a different takeaway, saying the talks were “productive.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Harnik)

US and North Korean officials gave conflicting statements following the conclusion of high-level talks in Pyongyang on Saturday that took place following last month’s summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo painted a positive picture of his talks with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, North Korean officials had a more negative takeaway.

“The US attitude and positions at the high-level talks on Friday and Saturday were extremely regrettable,” the North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, reported the South’s Yonhap news agency.

North Korea accused the US of trying to unilaterally force Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear weapons. The talks with Pompeo were “very concerning” as they have led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm.”

Pompeo praises ‘progress’ in talks

Before departing Pyongyang on Saturday, Pompeo said the talks had been “productive,” conducted “in good faith” and that “a great deal of progress” had been made in some areas.

Pompeo also said that US and Korean officials would meet on July 12 at the border between South and North Korea to discuss the destruction of Pyongyang’s missile engine testing facility and the remains of US troops from the 1950-53 Korean War.

Following his historic meeting with Kim on June 12, Trump announced that the destruction of the missile facility was in progress of being completed.

But Pompeo said that more talks were needed to progress on this matter.

“We talked about what the modalities would look like for the destruction of that facility as well, and some progress there as well, and then we have laid out a path for further negotiation at the working level so the two teams can get together and continue these discussions,” Pompeo said.

Is Pyongyang double dealing?

Pompeo’s visit to North Korea came amid reports that US intelligence agencies had “evidence” that Pyongyang is continuing to expand its capabilities to produce weapons.

Some of the reports suggest that the Kim regime was expanding weapons production facilities even as it promised to start the denuclearization process in the run-up to the Kim-Trump meeting in Singapore.

A report published recently by NBC News, citing unnamed US officials, said US intelligence agencies “believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in talks with the United States.”

Another US official was quoted saying there is “absolutely unequivocal evidence” that North Korea was trying to “deceive” the US.

Watch video01:43

US-North Korean summit hailed as success by both sides

Read more: North Korea does not want to be like East Germany

“The intelligence community assessment that North Korea is taking steps to deceive the United States would be consistent with regime behavior during all previous diplomatic negotiations,” Bruce Klinger, a former CIA division chief for Korea and senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, told DW.

However, Klinger emphasized that expanding production of fissile material did not violate the US-North Korea joint declaration signed in Singapore. “No real denuclearization agreement has yet been reached,” he said.

“As the US seeks to put meat on the meager bones of the Singapore Communique, it needs to emulate the lengthy, detailed treaty text and robust verification regimes of arms control treaties with the Soviet Union rather than the flawed North Korean agreements of the past,” added Klinger.

rs, shs/ng  (AP, AFP, dpa)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


North Korea Is Rapidly Upgrading Nuclear Site Despite Summit Vow

Satellite images show no evidence of dismantling after Kim Jong Un’s commitment at summit to denuclearize

Part of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear research site, in a satellite image captured on June 21 by Airbus Defence & Space.
Part of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear research site, in a satellite image captured on June 21 by Airbus Defence & Space. PHOTO: AIRBUS DEFENCE & SPACE/38 NORTH

SEOUL—North Korea is upgrading its nuclear research center at a rapid pace, new satellite imagery analysis suggests, despite Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization at a summit with the U.S. this month.

The analysis from 38 North, a North Korea-focused website published by the Stimson Center in Washington, found that Pyongyang, in recent weeks, appears to have modified the cooling system of its plutonium-production reactor and erected a new building near the cooling tower. New Construction could also be observed at the site’s experimental light-water reactor, the report said.

The satellite pictures, captured on June 21, nine days after the Singapore summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, showed no immediate effort to begin denuclearization at North Korea’s key nuclear research site.

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The Trump-Kim Summit: Big Promises, Little Substance

At an unprecedented summit in Singapore, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un displayed friendliness, but talks offered few specifics on denuclearization. WSJ’s Eun-Young Jeong reports from the city-state. Illustration: Sharon Shi

Shortly after shaking hands with Mr. Kim on June 12, Mr. Trump said the North Korean leader would return home to begin dismantling his country’s nuclear program. “In fact, when he lands—which is going to be shortly—I think that he will start that process right away,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

At a June 21 cabinet meeting, he said the two sides had agreed to “immediately begin total denuclearization of North Korea.”

The statement signed by the two leaders, however, says only that North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Mr. Trump said the process could take many years, but, in a tweet posted after his return to the U.S. on June 13, he said: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

The 38 North report, which is based on commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear research site captured by Airbus Defence & Space, found that the necessary infrastructure for operations at the experimental light-water reactor “appears externally complete.”

It wasn’t clear whether operations at the reactor had begun, the report said.

Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), the senior Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations East Asia Subcommittee, said the imagery suggests North Korea isn’t adhering to its pledge to denuclearize.

“Despite his claims to the contrary, President Trump got a weaker deal with fewer commitments than any of his predecessors,” Mr. Markey said. “The North Korean nuclear threat continues despite President Trump’s naive assurances.”

Despite concern from some lawmakers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t address the matter at a congressional hearing on Wednesday. However, Mr. Pompeo said that he was “optimistic” the U.S. would receive remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War in 1950-53 from North Korea, a promise by Pyongyang, in the near future and insisted that North Korea understood what steps it needs to take to secure an agreement in which it would give up its nuclear weapons and programs in return for security guarantees and sanctions economic benefits.

“We’ve been pretty unambiguous in our conversations about what we mean when we say complete denuclearization,” he said

North Korea began work in 2010 on experimental light-water reactor, which is several times as large as the plutonium-production reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea has said that it plans to use the new reactor for civilian electricity production. It could also be used to produce fissile material.

Some experts cautioned against relying solely on the satellite pictures as proof of duplicity on the regime’s part.

Andrea Berger, a London-based senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., said that the satellite imagery could only show what is happening on the outside.

“These infrastructure developments provide limited insight into the future direction of North Korea’s nuclear program,” Ms. Berger said.

Even so, she added, the photos “highlight the likelihood that North Korea has not pressed pause on its general nuclear and missile activities while talks are ongoing.”

The 38 North analysts, Frank Pabian, Joseph Bermudez and Jack Liu, said that they expected “business as usual” at the nuclear facility “until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.”

38 North, in commentary pieces, has generally supported engagement and dialogue with North Korea, though its satellite imagery analyses have captured the regime’s preparations for nuclear and missile tests.

Ahead of the Singapore summit, North Korea invited journalists to watch it blow up its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in its mountainous northeast as a show of its good faith. North Korea didn’t invite any experts, some of whom had said that the site was likely already unusable.

Mr. Kim had said in April that he considered the country’s nuclear program complete, and that no further tests were needed.

At Yongbyon in May 2008, North Korea invited journalists to witness the destruction of a cooling tower as part of a rapprochement with the George W. Bush administration.

But within months, North Korea was threatening to reverse some of its steps toward denuclearization, and less than a year later it conducted its second nuclear test.

This time around, Mr. Pompeo, who met Mr. Kim twice in Pyongyang before a third meeting in Singapore at the summit, has emphasized his belief that Mr. Kim was sincere in his pledges to denuclearize.

“I heard it myself when I visited Pyongyang as Secretary of State, and I heard it again when there was a group together with the president and Chairman Kim,” Mr. Pompeo told CNN this week. “He has been unequivocal in his statement that he’s prepared to do this.”

Mr. Trump told reporters in Singapore that Mr. Kim had told him North Korea was destroying a “major missile-engine testing site,” which he described as another sign of North Korea’s commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Trump also pointed to North Korea’s promise to return the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War, which was one of the points agreed to by the two sides in the joint statement from the Singapore summit.

Over the weekend, the U.S. began making preparations to receive the remains from North Korea at the inter-Korean border area.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at

Trump and Kim declare summit a big success, but they diverge on the detail

In triumphant tweet, Trump says North Korea nuclear threat is over

President Donald Trump made a sweeping pronouncement upon returning to Washington on June 13, saying there is no nuclear threat from North Korea. 

June 13 at 11:40 PM
President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un agreed Wednesday that their Singapore summit had been a momentous and unqualified success, but they offered somewhat differing versions of what they had accomplished and where they go from here.

Trump, in tweets that began as Air Force One made an early-morning landing, declared America’s “biggest and most dangerous problem” all but resolved. The deal he struck with Kim, he said, meant there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” and “everybody can now feel much safer.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration expected “major disarmament” by North Korea before the end of Trump’s term in January 2021.

Kim, or at least his country’s state-run news agency, said the two leaders had decided to end “extreme hostile relations” and described the beginning of a “step-by-step and simultaneous” process that would eventually lead to peace and “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Both sides said Trump had agreed to halt military exercises with South Korea. Additionally, according to Pyongyang, the president offered “security guarantees . . . and [to] lift sanctions” as their dialogue proceeded, to which North Korea would respond with “additional good-will measures.”

Unlike Kim, whose government brooks no domestic disagreement or questions, Trump faced skepticism that one day of talks had achieved so much.
His all-is-resolved description seemed to fly in the face of decades of hostility, unkept promises, and the widespread belief, shared by U.S. intelligence agencies, that North Korea would never give up the nuclear weapons it sought for so long.

The meeting clearly brought a step back from the brink of war, which Trump himself had threatened. Uneasiness in Washington stemmed largely from his lavish praise of Kim as “a very talented man” with a “great personality”; the choreographed, feel-good optics of the summit; and the striking lack of details in the brief declaration the two leaders signed.

Pompeo, visiting Seoul as part of a tour to brief regional governments on the summit, told reporters that questions about verification of North Korean denuclearization and its irreversibility — neither of which was mentioned in the document — were “insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous.”

Referring to his own extensive pre-summit communications with North Korea and the meeting itself, Pompeo said he would not talk about “discussions between the two parties.” But he was confident, he said, that the North Koreans “understand what we’re prepared to do, and [the] handful of things we’re not likely to do.”

“Not all of that work appeared in the final document,” Pompeo said. “But lots of other places where there were understandings reached, we couldn’t reduce them to writing.” He said those understandings would provide a starting point when detailed negotiations begin.

Coons: The Trump-Kim meeting was ‘a reality TV summit’

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) had harsh words for President Trump following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

Those talks, which he is to lead, will start “some time in the next week or so,” Pompeo said, and will be completed, “most definitely,” within the next two years. He said he had already assembled a strong negotiating team.

In a later news conference with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Pompeo said that sanctions would be lifted only after “complete denuclearization.” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that “we understand that any pause in drills,” or exercises, was also “contingent on North Korean denuclearization.” Pompeo did not address the subject directly, saying the U.S. security relationship with allies in the region was “ironclad.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Trump deserved credit for taking a new approach on a foreign-policy challenge that has bedeviled past presidents.

“The status quo was not working with North Korea,” Ryan told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The president should be applauded for disrupting the status quo.”

Ryan said that he is “encouraged” by continued negotiations on denuclearization led by Pompeo. At the same time, he said, there is no question that North Korea is a “terrible regime” and “we should be under no delusions that this will be fast.”

Some Republicans sounded more doubtful of those talks bearing fruit.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it’s understandable for Trump to be optimistic because “he’s the guy negotiating.”

“He needs to make the other side feel like he’s serious about getting something done,” Rubio said. “But for the rest of us who are watching and know the history of North Korea, we should be skeptical. This is a country that’s made promises before and has broken them.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he wants Pompeo to brief senators on the substance of what the two nations discussed, including whether U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula would remain.

“I have no idea” whether Trump secured anything of substance, said Corker, the retiring chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “At this juncture, I don’t think we know enough to challenge or cele­brate.”

Democrats and some analysts were more directly negative in their assessments.

“What planet is the president on?” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during remarks on the Senate floor. “Saying it doesn’t make it so. North Korea still has nuclear weapons. It still has ICBMs. It still has the United States in danger. Somehow President Trump thinks when he says something it becomes reality. If it were only that easy, only that simple.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), meanwhile, said on Twitter that Trump was being “truly delusional,” noting that North Korea has “the same arsenal today as 48 hours ago.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) also mocked Trump, saying on Twitter: “One trip and it’s ‘mission accomplished,’ Mr. President?”

“North Korea is a real and present threat,” Schiff said. “So is a dangerously naive president.”

Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that “the summit changed nothing.”

“Worse yet, overselling the summit makes it harder to keep sanctions in place, further reducing pressure on NK to reduce (much less give up) its nuclear weapons and missiles,” Haass said on Twitter.

Trump, in tweets that continued well after his arrival at the White House on Wednesday morning, defended his decision to halt military exercises, saying, “We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!”

He called his meeting with Kim “an interesting and very positive experience.”

He also wrote that before he took office last year, “people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea.”

“President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer — sleep well tonight!” the president wrote.

Trump, who has frequently sparred with the media, was also unsparing in his criticism of television coverage of the summit, pointing out two networks for scorn.

“So funny to watch the Fake News, especially NBC and CNN,” he said on Twitter. “They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have ‘begged’ for this deal-looked like war would break out. Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!”

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway stoked earlier talk among Trump supporters that his efforts on North Korea would deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.

“Look, the last president was handed the Nobel Peace Prize — this president’s actually going to earn it, and that’s all we need to know from this,” Conway said.

Obama won the prize in 2009 for his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.

Brian Murphy in Seoul contributed to this report.

Trump Calls Four-Hour Summit ‘Fantastic’

U.S. and North Korean leaders hold disarmament talks; White House has portrayed summit as first step

Raw Footage: Donald Trump Meets Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to meet with a sitting American president Tuesday, as he kicked off a Singapore summit with President Donald Trump with a handshake.

SINGAPORE—President Donald Trump declared a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un had gone better than expected as he emerged after nearly four hours of talks with the North Korean leader aimed at bringing about Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament.

The two men walked side-by-side outside the hotel on Sentosa Island where they met as Mr. Trump said they were “going right now for a signing,” without providing more details.

“We had a really fantastic meeting, a lot of progress, really very positive. I think better than anybody could have expected—top of the line,” Mr. Trump said.

They started the day by greeting each other before a row of alternating U.S. and North Korean flags. After a lengthy handshake, the two leaders exchanged a few words. “Nice to meet you, Mr. President,” Mr. Kim told Mr. Trump.

The men posed side by side for news cameras before settling in for a 38-minute, one-on-one meeting. They then brought in top advisers for another two hours of talks, before sharing a lunch that included prawn cocktail, beef short rib and vanilla ice cream.

“We’re going to have a great discussion,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s my honor and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.”

Mr. Kim said that “old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles in our way forward, but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”

Photos: Trump and Kim in Singapore for U.S.-North Korea Summit

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un shook hands at the beginning of a summit in Singapore

 President Donald Trump, left, being welcomed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the prime minister’s residence.
 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump sign a joint document at the end of their summit on Tuesday.
 President Donald Trump shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they sit down with their respective delegations for the summit.
 President Donald Trump meets with Kim Jong Un at the start of a U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on Tuesday.
 Kim Jong Un walking with President Donald Trump at the start of their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.
 A copy of Rodong Sinmun, Pyongyang’s main party newspaper, at a Pyongyang metro news stand shows images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.
 North Korean defectors Park Sang Hak, right, and Justin Kim, second from right, watch the summit on television at a motel in Leesburg, Va. Also watching are South Korean human-rights activists Do Hee Yun, pointing, and Henry Song.
 President Trump and Kim Jong Un walk after a working lunch during the summit Tuesday.
 Kim Jong Un posing for selfies with Singapore officials on the Jubilee Bridge in Singapore on Monday.
 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Sunday, before his <a href="" class="icon none" >departure for Singapore</a>.
 President Donald Trump blowing out a candle on a cake presented to him at lunch Monday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Mr. Trump’s birthday is Thursday, June 14.
 Cameramen preparing for the arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore on Monday.
 President Donald Trump’s motorcade leaving the Istana, the official residence of Singapore’s prime minister.
 Onlookers waiting for President Donald Trump’s motorcade.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump sign a joint document at the end of their summit on Tuesday.
1 of 14

The unprecedented meeting between the two leaders is enough for each side to claim an achievement. Mr. Trump became the only sitting U.S. president ever to meet with a North Korean leader and Mr. Kim cemented his place on the world stage.

The 13-second handshake, which was televised live around the world, marked the high point of an at-times surreal couple of days, extending the rapprochement of two men who only months ago were trading insults and threatening each other with nuclear attack.

On Monday night, the North Korean leader went on a sightseeing tour of Singapore, drawing crowds of bemused onlookers. On Tuesday, Dennis Rodman, the flamboyant retired basketball star who has befriended Mr. Kim, appeared in an emotional television interview from the city.

Trump, Kim Exchange Praise at Singapore Summit

Not long ago, the U.S. and North Korean leaders were threatening each other with annihilation. But at the Singapore summit, it was all smiles and mutual appreciation between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Photo: Getty

“Getting a good picture everybody?” Mr. Trump asked photographers ahead of the lunch. “So we look nice and handsome and thin? Perfect.”

Mr. Trump, who had quarreled with some of the U.S.’s closest allies earlier in the week, was upbeat ahead of his encounter with Mr. Kim. “We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!” he wrote in a Twitter post earlier in the day.

The purpose of the summit, once envisioned as a way to solidify North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, shifted in recent weeks as the White House sought to play down expectations, most recently portraying it as an initial step toward that eventual goal, while ending more than six decades of enmity.

One possible outcome of the summit is a communique outlining the parameters for talks that would follow. Some White House officials say the historic handshake, and the opportunity for the two leaders to meet, may be the singular result.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in advance of the meeting said: “We’ll see how far we get.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a passionate proponent of the peace talks, said the meeting could herald the beginning of a process lasting up to two years or longer. “I think every South Korean’s attention is on Singapore. I too could not sleep last night,” Mr. Moon said during a meeting with his senior aides. He had earlier been watching the summit coverage on television with his advisers.

More high-level negotiations over thorny issues like the pace of North Korea’s denuclearization and a verification process ​to certify that the North has disarmed are slated to begin as early as next month.

The summit, which has drawn thousands of media representatives from all over the world to Singapore, has captured the attention of the American public in a way that few foreign policy issues have in recent years, said Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant and pollster.

Kim Jong Un: The Rise of a Dictator

Kim Jong Un: The Rise of a Dictator

Behind the modernized facade of Pyongyang, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un rules one of the world’s most repressive states. And he has proven to be far more brutal and strategic than anticipated. Photo Illustration: David Chan

More than half of Americans, 53%, said they approved of Mr. Trump’s handling of North Korea in a CNN poll on May 10, up from 35% in November. Asked if they approved of the president’s decision to meet Mr. Kim, 77% said they did, up from 62% in March.

The summit is also drawing heightened attention in North Korea. The country’s media on Monday reported for the first time on the coming summit.

The report described the talks as being focused on a “permanent and durable peacekeeping mechanism” with the goal of “realizing the denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

A White House official called the report a “sign for optimism.”

As the day of the summit neared, North Korea’s main party newspaper published an editorial on Monday asserting the importance of every nation’s sovereignty. Without naming the U.S. or any countries, the article said that “genuine, equal relations” could be formed “only when independence of each country is maintained.”

“There can be no superior and inferior countries, and nations dominating others and those obliged to be dominated in the world,” it read.

Mr. Trump’s team was aware of the U.S. domestic political implications of the talks. White House aides have discussed seeking a commitment from North Korea to hand over its nuclear weapons within the next two years, administration officials said, an ambitious timetable that would coincide with a presidential re-election bid on Mr. Trump’s part.

Mr. Trump himself was intent on holding the meeting, initially resisting recommendations from top advisers, including national security adviser John Bolton, to cancel it on the night of May 23, when a senior North Korean official belittled Vice President Mike Pence and boasted about an arsenal that could devastate the U.S.

Mr. Trump finally made up his mind the next morning, opting to send what he called a “beautiful letter” on White House letterhead that called off the summit but didn’t shut the door entirely.

North Korea quickly issued a conciliatory response and, within two days, a White House team was sent to Singapore to arrange the summit.

To encourage North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, the U.S. prepared to offer North Korea “different, unique” security assurances that go beyond anything Washington offered in the past, Mr. Pompeo said Monday, in a possible allusion to a peace treaty and other assurances.

But Mr. Pompeo, who has led several rounds of talks with North Korea in recent months, said Washington wouldn’t agree to ease economic sanctions against Pyongyang unless “we get the outcome we are demanding”—complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

The secretary of state declined to say whether the U.S. would agree to limit military operations on or near the Korean Peninsula by U.S. aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Nor would he say if the U.S. would be willing to negotiate over the number of U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.

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Kim Jong Un Takes ​In Singapore Sights Ahead of ​Summit With ​Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was seen strolling about downtown Singapore with a large entourage Monday night, a day ahead of ​the​ summit with President Trump. Photo: LYNN BO BO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

In an earlier round of negotiations in September 2005, the U.S. issued a joint statement with North Korea and four other nations in which it affirmed that it had no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and “no intention to attack or invade” North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons. But those negotiations faltered when the North balked at wide-ranging inspections.

This week’s summit came together rapidly by diplomatic standards, without painstaking advance work by lower-level officials. Some of the pre-summit talks were handled for the U.S. by Sung Kim, a State Department veteran of past nuclear talks, and for North Korea by Vice Minister Choe Son Hui.

Tuesday’s summit came after the two leaders and their governments spent months trading insults. Mr. Trump mocked Mr. Kim, calling him last year “Rocket Man” in an address before the United Nations General Assembly, while North Korea threatened to launch missiles at the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and to explode a nuclear device over the Pacific Ocean.

Write to Michael C. Bender at, Michael R. Gordon at and Jonathan Cheng at

Appeared in the June 12, 2018, print edition as ‘Trump, Kim Embark on New Path.’


Trump, Kim Begin New Phase of Diplomacy

North Korea’s promise of denuclearization has few specifics; U.S. president says military exercises will stop

Raw Footage: Highlights of Trump and Kim’s Historic Summit

After a historic summit in Singapore, President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un signed a document committing to work together for peace. Other highlights included mutual compliments, handshakes and a lunch with prawn cocktail. Photo: Getty Images

SINGAPORE—President Donald Trump won few specific new commitments from Kim Jong Un to surrender his nuclear weapons after a day of talks, but kick-started a new phase of personal diplomacy aimed at pushing the North Korean leader toward a rapid and verifiable disarmament.

In a two-page document signed by both leaders here on Tuesday, North Korea committed again to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while the U.S. offered unspecified security guarantees in return.

Speaking to reporters after their summit meeting, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Kim had pledged to start denuclearization “right away,” but that there hadn’t been time to codify details in Tuesday’s agreement.

Mr. Kim “might want to do this as much, or even more, than me,” Mr. Trump said. “I know when someone wants to deal and when they don’t.”

Even so, Mr. Trump added a note of caution: “I may be wrong. I may stand before you six months from now and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’”

Some of the biggest developments weren’t in the document signed by the two leaders. Mr. Trump said he would cease “tremendously expensive” and “provocative” joint military exercises with South Korea as long as productive talks continue with the North, a move he thought Mr. Kim would welcome.

Mr. Trump said that reducing the number of U.S. forces in South Korea isn’t part of the negotiation, but that he would eventually like to bring home the 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea to save money.

The U.S. has steadfastly refused to suspend joint military exercises in the past despite North Korean demands, and the pledge to do so is likely to unsettle Asian allies, who appeared to be taken by surprise by Mr. Trump’s statements. The Pentagon has long argued that the maneuvers, which it says are defensive in nature, are necessary to maintain the readiness of U.S. forces in South Korea.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana White, said in a statement that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had been consulted on the move. “The secretary and the president have been fully aligned,” Ms. White said. “They have spoken about all these issues in advance.”

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was trying to determine the meaning of Mr. Trump’s remarks, and a senior South Korean national-security official said “nothing has changed” on the exercises. A spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea said that it had received no new guidance on joint military maneuvers, including drills planned for the fall.

The decision came as a surprise to U.S. military officers in South Korea, who were “at a loss” about what would happen next, and whether there would be a cancelation of training with the South Korean military, according to a person familiar with the matter.

U.S. and South Korean forces recently completed an ambitious series of exercises, including the Foal Eagle annual maneuvers and Max Thunder, an air drill that drew North Korean protests. The only recent concession to Pyongyang’s sensitivities was a U.S. move to shelve a training exercise with the South Korea air force involving U.S. B-52s, which was made at Seoul’s request.

In addition, Mr. Trump said Tuesday that Mr. Kim had agreed to destroy a missile-engine testing site in a concession that wasn’t part of the written agreement. Mr. Trump’s remark was likely a reference to a missile test stand in the country’s northwest that North Korea had recently razed but not announced, which 38 North, a website on North Korean affairs, said last week Pyongyang had destroyed. In the report, analyst Joseph Bermudez pointed to satellite imagery that showed the site had been used for testing solid-fueled medium-range missiles and could have been used for developing longer-range missiles.

Mr. Trump holds up a document that he signed with Mr. Kim at the Capella Hotel in Singapore on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump holds up a document that he signed with Mr. Kim at the Capella Hotel in Singapore on Tuesday. PHOTO:SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The meeting of the two leaders began on Tuesday at the Capella hotel on the Singaporean resort island of Sentosa at 9 a.m. local time. Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim sat down for a 38-minute one-on-one talk—the first between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of North Korea—with only interpreters present. From there, the two men were joined by their senior aides for two more hours of meetings before lunch. The two leaders then took a brief stroll without their aides before signing the document and shaking hands for the cameras.

Following the meeting, which Mr. Trump said had led to a personal bond, both sides pledged to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to begin high-level negotiations at the earliest possible date.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton will meet North Korean officials next week “to go over the details” of Tuesday’s agreement, Mr. Trump said.

But the document, which Mr. Trump described as “very comprehensive,” provided almost no particulars on how to come to a speedy denuclearization that was complete, verifiable and irreversible—oft-stated U.S. goals.

In many ways, the language echoed an agreement signed between North and South Korea in April in its broad aims. It didn’t codify Pyongyang’s unilateral moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, or contain any reference to sanctions relief. It made a general pledge to a security guarantee for North Korea but didn’t mention the status of U.S. military forces in South Korea.

Trump, Kim Exchange Praise at Singapore Summit

Not long ago, the U.S. and North Korean leaders were threatening each other with annihilation. But at the Singapore summit, it was all smiles and mutual appreciation between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Photo: Getty

Olivia Enos, policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, said that the document was “incredibly vague,” and didn’t attempt to bridge the gap between the U.S. and North Korean conceptions of denuclearization.

“This seems like just another feel-good statement similar to the one signed at the inter-Korean dialogue with little to no meat on the bones of where we go from here,” Ms. Enos said.

Other experts said that the outcome at least kept the diplomatic process moving forward.

“It is not as much as many people hoped but meets the minimum standard for a useful step forward,” said Joel Wit, a former State Department official and a senior fellow at the Stimson Center.

Sung Kim, the former top U.S. envoy on North Korea’s nuclear program who led talks with the North at the inter-Korean demilitarized zone in the run-up to Tuesday’s summit, told reporters after the declaration signing that “there’s a lot of work left.”

“The two sides are committed to working intensively,” said Mr. Kim, who is the current U.S. ambassador to the Philippines.

Still, the agreement forestalls the likelihood of any immediate hostilities and sets the stage for more high-level negotiations.

The shift to dialogue is a contrast to the situation last year, when a series of North Korean weapons tests prompted increasingly bellicose language from the U.S. president. The two leaders taunted each other and threatened nuclear attack.

Messrs. Trump and Kim would “meet again…many times,” the U.S. president said, telling reporters that he would visit Pyongyang “at a certain time” and would invite Mr. Kim to visit the White House. “We’re probably going to need another summit,” he said.

The summit outcome came as an unexpected boon for China, which has long called for the U.S. and South Korea to suspend their joint military drills in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons and missile tests.

China applauded the summit on Tuesday and sought to press its advantage, calling for the United Nations Security Council to reconsider its sanctions on Pyongyang, even though Mr. Trump said there would be no immediate easing and the U.S. holds a veto in the body.

“Sanctions are a means, not an end,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing. “We believe the Security Council should make efforts to support the current diplomatic efforts and contribute to the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue.”

Mr. Trump indicated sanctions would remain in place, saying the U.S. had “tremendous leverage” to sustain economic pressure on North Korea until it moved to get rid of nuclear arsenal and programs, but added: “I look forward to taking them off.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after talking by phone with Mr. Trump, called the meeting a success but said it needed to be followed by swift action.

“We will seek full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions based on the success of this historic meeting,” he told reporters late Tuesday.

When asked whether he was concerned by the lack of a specific timetable in the joint statement, Mr. Abe replied, “First of all, North Korea has clearly committed itself to complete denuclearization. The fact that Chairman Kim Jong Un has made a pledge to President Trump is extremely significant, in my view. And it is written in the joint statement that they will move forward swiftly. It is exactly as those words say: They must move forward swiftly.”

Mr. Abe didn’t discuss the halting of U.S.-South Korea war games.

While Tuesday’s agreement left no doubt that Washington and Pyongyang remain far apart on the subject of North Korea’s nuclear program, the two leaders appeared to engage in amicable conversation, patting each other on the back and taking a stroll around the hotel grounds.

Mr. Trump lauded Mr. Kim as “a very worthy, very smart negotiator” and at one point showed him his armored black Cadillac.

“We had a terrific day, and we learned a lot about each other and about our countries,” Mr. Trump said. “I learned he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

Mr. Kim expressed his gratitude to the U.S. leader for making the summit possible, and said he wanted to “leave the past behind.” “The world will see a major change” as a result of their talks, he said.

For the North Korean leader, the Singapore summit was a public-relations coup, cementing his place on the world stage during his fourth trip abroad as leader. The night before his meeting with Mr. Trump, Mr. Kim went on a sightseeing tour of Singapore, posing for selfies with local officials and waving to curious onlookers.

Photos: Trump and Kim in Singapore for U.S.-North Korea Summit

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un shook hands at the beginning of a summit in Singapore

President Donald Trump, left, being welcomed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the prime minister’s residence.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump sign a joint document at the end of their summit on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they sit down with their respective delegations for the summit.

President Donald Trump meets with Kim Jong Un at the start of a U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on Tuesday.

Kim Jong Un walking with President Donald Trump at the start of their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.

A copy of Rodong Sinmun, Pyongyang’s main party newspaper, at a Pyongyang metro news stand shows images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.

North Korean defectors Park Sang Hak, right, and Justin Kim, second from right, watch the summit on television at a motel in Leesburg, Va. Also watching are South Korean human-rights activists Do Hee Yun, pointing, and Henry Song.

President Trump and Kim Jong Un walk after a working lunch during the summit Tuesday.

Kim Jong Un posing for selfies with Singapore officials on the Jubilee Bridge in Singapore on Monday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Sunday, before his <a href="" class="icon none" >departure for Singapore</a>.

President Donald Trump blowing out a candle on a cake presented to him at lunch Monday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Mr. Trump’s birthday is Thursday, June 14.

Cameramen preparing for the arrival of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore on Monday.

President Donald Trump’s motorcade leaving the Istana, the official residence of Singapore’s prime minister.

Onlookers waiting for President Donald Trump’s motorcade.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump sign a joint document at the end of their summit on Tuesday.
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Write to Michael R. Gordon at, Jonathan Cheng at and Michael C. Bender at


Trump-Kim summit: Wide gaps remain as two leaders meet in Singapore

President Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

 President Trump shook hands Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a secluded luxury resort here, reversing decades of U.S. policy toward the rogue authoritarian regime in an extraordinary gamble that his personal attention would help break a cycle of nuclear brinkmanship and stave off a military confrontation.

Trump and Kim met just after 9 a.m. local time at the grand Capella hotel on a stage with a red carpet and alternating U.S. and North Korean flags. They held their grip, then turned to face a small group of journalists for images to be beamed rapidly around the world.

The president motioned to Kim to leave the stage, and the two men retreated into a private chamber to meet one on one, joined only by their interpreters, with the aim of establishing a rapport before they were joined by aides for the more technical nuclear arms negotiations.

As they sat next to one another in a pair of armchairs, Trump declared, “It’s my honor, and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.”

Kim spoke in Korean, saying that “the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward, but we’ve overcome all of them, and we are here today.”

The unprecedented greeting between the unorthodox leader of the world’s richest and most powerful nation and the brutal ruler of the most isolated and repressive would have been considered almost unimaginable just months ago as Trump and Kim traded threats and insults. Never before had a sitting U.S. president met with a ruling Kim family patriarch, as previous White Houses refused to validate the regime amid its nuclear provocations and human rights abuses.

But beneath the remarkable images from the Capella was the thornier reality that the two sides remained divided on crucial issues and a path forward on a denuclearization plan, which could take years to complete and would probably face significant potential stumbling blocks along the way.

The goal of the summit was to ratify the outlines of a joint statement, to be released before the two men left Singapore later in the day, that laid out a framework for additional talks.

After their one-on-one meeting, the two leaders were joined by senior aides for more technical talks. On the U.S. side, Trump’s team included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

In the days leading up to the meeting, with negotiators struggling to reach a basic agreement on the scope of deal, Trump and his aides sought to lower expectations about how quickly the administration could convince Pyongyang to begin dismantling its nuclear and ballistics missile programs. Details on whether the North would agree to a specific time frame and regular international inspections of its progress, as well as what benefits the United States was offering in return, were not immediately disclosed.

Other major issues appeared to remain unresolved, including North Korea’s brutal human rights record, which Trump had lambasted last year after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who had been held captive for 17 months and then released in a coma.

The question for Trump and Kim, four decades younger and taking a gamble of his own, was whether their risky encounter would produce a historic breakthrough to ease tensions, or collapse and leave Kim emboldened and U.S. influence weakened on the global stage.

“The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “We have our hostages, testing, research and all missle launches have stoped, and these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say! We will be fine!”

Trump, who delights in challenging conventional wisdom, seized on the chance to do what other presidents could not, and, despite having taken office with scant geopolitical experience, quickly elevated the escalating North Korea threat to his top foreign policy priority. As Pyongyang demonstrated rapidly sophisticated proficiency in its nuclear arsenal, Trump oversaw a tightening of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Pyongyang — only to leap in March at Kim’s offer to meet and rush headlong into a summit, despite warnings from former U.S. officials that he was moving too quickly and rewarding the regime for its bad behavior.

At 8:53 a.m., a black stretch Mercedes sedan with North Korean flags on the front pulled up to the Capella. Kim stepped out in a traditional black Mao suit and quickly entered the building.

Trump followed six minutes later, emerging from the presidential limousine in a dark suit and red power tie. He entered the building with an impassive stare.

At 9:04 a.m., they strode toward each other from opposite ends of the makeshift outdoor stage, before a small contingent of assembled journalists, and met in the middle. They extended their hands and, as they shook, Trump patted Kim’s right shoulder with his left hand.

Trump appeared to speak to Kim before the two turned, let go of their grip and faced the cameras with serious expressions. The president then motioned for Kim to depart the stage. The North Korean leader appeared to smile as they strolled together toward private chambers.

It was the moment of truth for Trump, who last week boasted that he would be able to use his “touch” and his “feel” as a seasoned dealmaker to size up the leader of the world’s most opaque regime and determine within the first minute whether he was serious about making a deal.

It was unclear whether the president and the dictator could realistically reach any concrete agreements in just one day of talks.

Wide gaps remain between the North Korean and U.S. interpretations of what verification means. And the United States is insisting that it would not ease sanctions until North Korea’s denuclearization was complete. But Pompeo told reporters a day before the summit that the administration was prepared to provide security assurances unlike any that previous administrations have offered.

Trump and his team vowed Monday that the United States would not repeat past missteps in negotiating with the rogue, nuclear-armed nation. Deals under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama collapsed after North Korea violated the agreements by conducting additional missile and nuclear tests.

“The United States has been fooled before — there’s no doubt about it,” Pompeo told reporters as the two sides raced to finalize summit details.

“Many presidents previously have signed off on a piece of paper only to find the North Koreans didn’t promise what we thought they had or actually reneged on their promises,” he added. “Despite any past flimsy agreements, the president will ensure no potential agreement fails to adequately address the North Korean threat.”

On his final day before meeting Kim, Trump sought to consolidate support from key allies, speaking by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have been in close coordination with the White House for months.

Pompeo pronounced Trump well prepared for the meeting, emphasizing that the president was determined not to reward Kim until the North had taken concrete steps toward curbing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

“The president has made very clear that until the time we get the outcome we’re demanding, economic relief will not be provided,” Pompeo said. “That’s different. There’s always been the hypothesis that somewhere along the way America would take its foot off. We will not do that.”

Sanctions will “remain until they have verifiably eliminated” the nuclear program, he said. “If it does not move in the right direction, those measures will increase.”

Trump spent the day before meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who feted him with a birthday cake in honor of his 72nd birthday Thursday. The president then privately addressed U.S. Embassy staff and families before retiring for the evening to his suite at the heavily secured Shangri La Hotel.

Despite Trump’s flair for the dramatic and love of the spotlight, it was the largely unknown Kim who stole the pre-summit show in the hours leading up to their meeting here.

Kim and his delegation were escorted on a sightseeing tour of the city’s gleaming waterfront skyline Monday night by his Singaporean hosts, who seemed to be encouraging the North Korean leader to dream big — allowing him to see firsthand a gleaming testament to prosperity and modernity.

For Kim, it was a remarkable show that he, like Trump, is intent on upsetting the status quo. He flashed a big smile and posed for photographs as he freely strolled the waterfront and appeared to revel in the global media spotlight and the cheers of onlookers — and, perhaps, envisioned the kind of glittering future his country could have if it opened up to the outside world.

Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.

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