After more than a half-century of hostility between their two countries, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had nice things to say when they came face-to-face to try to strike a deal over the latter's nuclear weapons.
"Very, very good — excellent relationship," Trump said after a brief one-on-one meeting with the North Korean dictator. Later, at a bilateral meeting with aides from both sides, Trump said, "Mr. Chairman, it's a great honor to be with you and I know that we will have tremendous success together."
At the top of the summit, with Kim at his side, Trump had predicted that "it's going to be really successful and I think we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt."
Kim told Trump that there were "many obstacles" ahead of the meeting, "but we overcame all."
In an extraordinary scene earlier, the two leaders who once threatened each other with nuclear annihilation shook hands on a red carpet in front of the island resort hotel where they are meeting. As cameras whirred and clicked, a global audience watched as Trump smiled and grabbed Kim's arm for a photo opportunity that featured American and North Korean flags arrayed side-by-side behind the two leaders.
Trump also took a familiar jab at the press during the summit: As reporters yelled questions during the photo opp, Trump told Kim, "The press, they never stop."
At one point, reporters overheard a translator, apparently interpreting Kim's words, as saying that "many people in the world will think of this as a ... form of fantasy ... from a science fiction movie.”
Trump and Kim chatted amiably out of earshot as they walked into the building for the private meeting that preceded a full bilateral conference that includes aides and advisers.
"Meetings between staffs and representatives are going well and quickly," Trump tweeted hours before his historic sit-down with Kim. "But in the end, that doesn’t matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!"
In another tweet, Trump denounced "haters & losers" who said he should not have granted Kim — an autocrat accused of having political rivals killed the prestige of a presidential meeting without more North Korean concessions.
Citing the return of American hostages and a suspension of North Korean nuclear testing, Trump said that "these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say! We will be fine!"
While on his way to meet Kim, Trump also tweeted that White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow had suffered a heart attack and has been hospitalized outside Washington, D.C.
Trump and aides said they do not expect the summit to generate a comprehensive nuclear deal; they instead looked to set up a process to negotiate an agreement in which North Korea gives up nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance from the United States and other countries.
The global village expressed amazement over the extraordinary pictures from Singapore: The voluble 6-foot-3 American president, who turns 72 years old Thursday, backslapping the 5-foot-7, 34-year-old reclusive dictator of North Korea less than a year after each basically threatened the destroy the other's country.
The two leaders began the meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Singapore time — prime time Monday back in the USA. The summit took place at a resort hotel on Sentosa island, just off the Singapore mainland.
Trump was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, for the expanded talks, while Kim’s team included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party.-Agencies