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Trump and Kim begin historic summit with cordial greeting

Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un met for the first time at a resort off Singapore's coast, the first time a U.S. president has been face-to-face with a leader of North Korea. Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff from on the ground in Singapore.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The moment has arrived. President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un are about to meet in Singapore. Mr. Trump left his hotel a short time ago in a motorcade headed to the summit site on Sentosa Island. It's a resort off of Singapore's coast. And in one of the many choreographed moments of this event, Kim also departed his hotel under tight security and has now arrived for the historic meeting.

    It is the first time a sitting U.S. president has been face to face with the leader of North Korea. Our foreign affairs correspondent Nick Shifrin's there and before we go to Nick, we want to show you these live pictures. This is the Capella Hotel at the Sentosa island Resort. Sentosa stands for peace — the word peace. And this is where the two leaders will be holding this historic meeting.

    As we were saying, our foreign affairs correspondent Nick Shifrin is not far away, he is in Singapore keeping an eye on all of this. Nick, they pretty much try to keep to schedule so far. The motorcades arrived when they said they did and we're waiting for the two men to come out and shake hands.

  • Nick Shifrin:

    Yes, absolutely. They are right on schedule and we will see a rather intimate handshake, we predict, just in the next few minutes. And — and we just got off the phone with a senior administration official who's predicting that this meeting will go well. And it will just be a start. And this is another example of lowering expectations about the product of this meeting.

    This senior administration official telling me that today will not —


  • Judy Woodruff:

    There they are, Nick, we're going to watch — Nick, I'm going to interrupt and as we watch the two leaders shaking hands for the first time, standing in front of a row of American and North Korean flags. Speaking to each other and then turning to face the cameras, a small group of cameras, reporters and others in what we call a pool, representing the entire press corps. Now the president is gesturing and they're walking off to the side.

    So Nick, that was relatively brief. They had a few words to say to one another from what we could see but I would guess it lasted no more than 10 or 15 seconds before they turned the cameras and then gestured and walked away.

  • Nick Shifrin:

    Yes, I think cordial is probably the best way to do that. The president tapping Kim Jong Un's shoulder and — and leading him or — or leading him toward the meeting that they're going to have right now. This is what's going to happen over the next couple hours, Judy (ph). The two men will meet by themselves with only translators for about 45 minutes or so, although that space is up to them. They can go longer if they want.

    Then there'll be a further meeting, an expanded bilateral meeting. That'll include John Bolton among other people, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state who's been leading these negotiations. And that will go for about an hour, an hour and a half. And then after that, a working lunch that'll expand both teams.

    And as I was saying before, a senior administration official that I was talking to right before this started was really lowering expectations to the point where he's admitting that actually what will happen from this meeting is a cordial one and they will not know how far Kim or the North Koreans are willing to go.

    All they want at this point is an opportunity for the president to get to know Kim and then the hard work will happen, the two staffs will get together over the next few months and figure out whether Kim Jong Un really is serious about denuclearization, which of course is the key question right now. But it's interesting to hear the senior administration official saying even if this meeting goes well they won't know how serious the North Koreans are about denuclearization.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting that they are — seem to be lowering expectations, saying there will be — they don't expect big breakthroughs in this first meeting, they expect it to be an opening. Nick, I was watching the two men in that brief period when they were walking along the colonnade, making their way into the room where they'll be meeting. And they were chatting.

    We're told that Kim Jong Un speaks English, to perhaps he understood what the president was saying to him. We know there were interpreters right behind them but that's one of the many questions people are going to have. We're looking right now at a picture — I don't know if we can show it or not — of the photographers and reporters trying to get a picture, trying to get a sense of what it looks like in the room where the two men are meeting.

    This is familiar to all of us who've covered the summits, these — these meeting — so called bilateral meetings between two leaders. So some of this is very familiar, in a way, Nick. But on the hand, it's historic because never before has a sitting American president met with the North Korean leader.

  • Nick Shifrin:

    Absolutely, and I think that — that's a key point. 25 years of diplomacy has led to this day and most of that diplomacy — almost — almost all of it, in fact, was done by the staffs, was done by the two sides.

    And so what Donald Trump — what the president has done is flipped the switch basically and said I want to go first, I want to decide whether Kim Jong Un is serious. I want to decide whether this is someone that we can deal with, and the president, of course, wants to feel that in the room.He said he'd know within the first few seconds.

    That will be the start of the process, not what is normal, which is the end of the process, this kind of summit. And so again, this summit, if it goes well, will only produce a relationship between the two men and will produce the opportunity for the two staffs on either side to figure out on the American side how serious North Korea is about denuclearization, and on the North Korean side, hear how serious the United States about offering security guarantees and perhaps lifting some of the sanctions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Here they are together let's listen.


  • President Donald Trump:

    We will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.


  • Kim Jong Un:

    The past (inaudible) and (inaudible) presidents (ph) and practices (ph) worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.

  • President Donald Trump:

    That's true.

  • Male:

    Thank you.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Thank you very much everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    It sounded like Kim Jong Un — President Trump said we're looking forward to a meeting, he may have said a terrific meeting, I was having a hard time hearing. And then we heard Kim Jong Un say among other things we hope to overcome obstacles and then President Trump responded right away that's true.

    So they're already beginning a dialogue if you will, Nick, before they get into this meeting, which we think could last 45 minutes, an hour or longer.

  • Nick Shifrin:

    So two points about that, one what is extraordinary is that Kim Jong Un has agreed to that setting, to a live camera with the president of the United States and — and basically being willing to perhaps even ask — be asked questions from the pool that's right there.

    This is leader who leads one of the world's most notoriously restrictive human rights violating regimes, so he has never done this before. No North Korean has ever faced live cameras like this before, number one.

    Number two, obviously the mood in the meeting is positive, and so at the very least we know that both of them are trying to go into their meeting on a positive note, trying to reassure each other, and — and trying to figure out whether they can work together and they seem both to want to.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Nick, I guess the U.S. side has said that they don't plan to bring up human rights during this meeting, is that your understanding? And then second of all, this early word that they both planned — or at least the plan is for them to leave Singapore within hours after this meeting ends.

  • Nick Shifrin:

    So on human rights, what's one (ph) the senior administration official tells me is that it is up to the president. The president, quote, calls a lot of audibles as he sees fit. And so the president has been very concerned, for example, about the family of Otto Warmbier who was killed in North Korea, so worried about human rights.

    But also will not bring it up if he doesn't want to, and that's the key, that is really is up to the president at this point. And in terms of when they leave, they are scheduled to leave, both of them, in the next few hours, but they could also extend if they want.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nick Shifrin reporting on this historic summit for us from Singapore, and Nick, we'll be coming back to you later this evening. Thank you. And in the day's other news, shortly before his meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, the president tweeted that his chief economic adviser has suffered a heart attack.

    He said Larry Kudlow has been working hard on trade and is being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center just outside of Washington, D.C.

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