After months of sabre-rattling that gave way to flirtation, President Trump finally met face-to-face with Kim Jong Un at a hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on Tuesday morning.
Hours into a working lunch, at which the two leaders discussed a deal to denuclearise North Korea, Trump and Kim took a stroll together, and the U.S. president declared “We’re going right now for a signing.”
While it remained unclear what sort of document the two men would sign, Trump added that the meeting had gone “better than anybody could have expected.”
Their meeting began shortly after 9 a.m. local time, with Trump wearing a dark suit and red tie, and Kim dressed in a black suit. The two men walked along a white colonnade, meeting in front of a bank of 12 alternating U.S. and North Korean flags where they shook hands. The handshake lasted about 12 seconds.
According to the Shanghai Media Group, the 35-year-old Kim arrived at the summit venue seven minutes earlier than Trump, 71, to show respect to his elder.
After their initial greeting, Trump and Kim walked inside, sat down and spoke briefly to reporters.
Trump, who had insisted he would know “within the first minute” if Kim was serious about denuclearisation, said he “felt really great” and that it was his “honour” to meet with the North Korean leader.
“We’re going to have a great discussion,” Trump said. “A tremendous success. We will have a great relationship.”
“It was not easy to get here,” Kim said. “There were obstacles, but we overcame them to be here.”
Kim likened the meeting to something “from a science fiction movie,” according to a translation of his remarks.
The pair then retreated to a private room where they met one-on-one, with interpreters, for about 35 minutes before an expanded bilateral meeting with both U.S. and North Korean advisers.
The president was flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton. Kim was joined by vice chairman Kim Yong Chol and foreign ministers Ri Yong Ho and Ri Su Yong. Trump and Kim sat across from each other near the center of a long table.
At the top of the expanded meeting, Trump said he and Kim will solve the problems presented by a nuclear North Korea.
“Working together, we will get it taken care of,” Trump said.
“We overcame all kinds of skepticism and speculations about this summit,” Kim added, “and I believe that this is good for the peace.”
Trump arrived at the hotel after issuing a flurry of tweets dismissing skeptics of the meeting between U.S. leaders and the rogue nuclear nation as “haters & losers.”
He also revealed that his economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who was not part of the U.S. delegation in Singapore, had suffered a heart attack was being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland.
“Larry is currently in good condition,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “And his doctors expect he will make a full and speedy recovery.”
Adding to the surreal nature of Trump-Kim spectacle, former NBA star Dennis Rodman appeared on CNN in a rambling, emotional interview live from Singapore, where he broke into tears as he commented on his role in bringing Kim and Trump to the negotiating table.
Rodman, who first traveled to North Korea in 2013 to meet with Kim, said he received death threats as a result of his outreach.
“I believed in North Korea,” Rodman said. “And when I went home I couldn’t even go home. I couldn’t go home. I had to hide out for 30 days. I couldn’t even go home, but I kept my head up high, brother. I knew things were going to change. I knew it. I was the only one.”
The flamboyant former basketball star added that the Trump White House called him Tuesday to thank him for his unlikely diplomacy.