June 11 (UPI) — In a breathtaking moment that signaled bygones may truly be bygones, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shook hands and signaled a shared optimism about the talks that are to take place this morning in Singapore.
Kim, believed to be 34 or 35, and Trump, 71, met for the first time at the Capella Hotel, exchanging a firm and long handshake on the red carpet before a row of U.S. and North Korean flags lined side by side.
The two leaders then faced the cameras as Trump offered remarks rendered inaudible by the noise of flashing cameras.
The U.S. president did not smile but appeared relaxed.
NBC News reported Kim had asked remarks be not made during the initial encounter.
The two men exchanged another handshake as they made their way back into the hotel.
Trump then placed his hand on Kim’s back as they exchanged small talk with their two translators by their side.
Inside, the hotel, Kim and Trump offered brief remarks.
Kim told reporters he was “able to overcome” obstacles to make his way to the Singapore summit.
Kim did not elaborate on what those obstacles were, but Trump, sitting by his side, gave him a brief thumbs up and said a good rapport will build between the two countries.
“The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward, but we’ve overcome all of them and we are here today,” Kim Jong Un said.
Trump said, “It’s my honor — we will have a terrific relationship, no doubt.”
The two leaders will meet one-on-one with only translators present until 10 a.m., local time
More extended talks involving other officials will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., which will be followed by lunch.
Trump left his hotel a few minutes before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left the St. Regis Hotel in Singapore, ahead of their historic summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island.
The two leaders reached their destination by around 8:30 a.m., local time.
Kim left his hotel around the time Trump’s motorcade reached the summit location, in what appeared to be an all-black armored Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman Guard luxury limousine, possibly the same vehicle Kim rode in to Panmunjom to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.
South Korean news network YTN reported expectations are running high the two sides will reach an agreement that reflect the atmosphere of accord in Singapore.
Late Monday, Kim took a surprise evening tour of Singapore’s attractions, including Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.
The team of White House aides and Trump administration officials had not mentioned whether the issue of North Korean human rights will be addressed during the summit between the two leaders, a sign the United States’ priorities lie in mitigating weapons threats.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday the only acceptable outcome of the summit it “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” or dismantlement.
Yonhap reported the atmosphere in Singapore Monday morning was relatively tense, with police deployed across the city.
Kim and Trump are staying in hotels that are less than 600 meters apart, but each leader spent about 20 minutes by car to reach their destination in Sentosa Island.
Shades were drawn across bridge linking Sentosa and the rest of the city, so pedestrians could not see the motorcades en route to the Capella Hotel.