Trump meets Lee; hopes ‘nice’ outcome from summit with Kim

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Singapore: US President Donald Trump today hoped that a “nice” outcome could be reached from what he said would be a “very interesting meeting” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tomorrow.

Trump made the remarks at a working lunch with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the presidential palace Istana after their bilateral meeting during which the two leaders discussed everything from the summit preparations to the US’ tariff threats.

He also thanked his Singapore hosts for their hospitality.

“We have a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I think things can work out very nicely,” Trump said. “But we appreciate your hospitality and professionalism and your friendship. Thank you very much.”

The US president was accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

During the meeting, the officials also celebrated Trump’s birthday. He is turning 72 on June 14.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan posted a photo of Trump posing with the birthday cake. “Celebrating birthday, a bit early,” he wrote.

The meeting was Trump’s only scheduled public event today.

Earlier, Trump tweeted it was “great to be in Singapore, excitement is in the air”.

Meanwhile, diplomats from the US and North Korea met behind closed doors at The Ritz-Carlton hotel, in a bid to narrow their differences ahead of the Trump-Kim summit tomorrow.

Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea who has been leading the US in talks with North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui since last month, is said to be continuing the discussions with his counterpart in Singapore.

According to National Security Council spokesman Robert Palladino, President Trump intends to meet one on one with Kim.

“We can expect a one on one at the beginning,” Palladino was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.

During the flight from Canada to Singapore, the president spent time meeting with his staff, reading materials, and preparing for his meetings in Singapore.

Chairman Kim yesterday held a meeting with Prime Minister Lee. He thanked Singapore hosting the summit as if it was “their own family affair”.

The two leaders discussed bilateral relations as well as the summit and the recent positive developments on the Korean peninsula.

Lee complimented the bold and admirable decision by Kim and Trump to come together for the Summit.

Prime Minister Lee wished Kim a success for the summit and expressed hope that the US-North Korea meeting will advance the prospects for peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the larger region.

Singapore is one of the few countries that have diplomatic relations with both the US and North Korea.

Trump and Kim are set to meet tomorrow at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa for talks which could see North Korea dismantle its nuclear arsenal in return for economic help and security guarantees.

The summit – the first between a sitting US president and any North Korean Leader – will mark a turnaround of relations between Trump and Kim after a long-running exchange of furious threats and insults.

The two leaders have had an extraordinary up-and-down relationship over the past 18 months.

Some 2,500 journalists are reporting on the event, which is costing Singapore government about SGD 20 million. PTI