Trump arrives in Singapore ahead of unprecedented US-North Korea summit
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Trump arrives in Singapore ahead of unprecedented US-North Korea summit

Singapore: History making geopolitics is bad for business for taxi drivers, with roads shut across Singapore to allow North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump to arrive at separate airports within hours of each other on Sunday.

While Trump made his mark at the G7 by arriving hours late and leaving early, he arrived in Singapore several days ahead of Tuesday’s ground-breaking meeting with Kim.

This could show an intent to prepare, despite Trump's own comments last week that he didn't need to prepare "very much" for the first meeting between a US president and a North Korean leader, and would know "within the first minute" of meeting Kim whether things would work out.

Access to downtown Singapore was closed off and access to Changi Airport restricted as Kim arrived in the afternoon on a Chinese plane. His motorcade was escorted by police to the St Regis Hotel where he is staying.

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Reflecting his reported fear of assassination, a dozen North Korean bodyguards in dark suits ran alongside his car in the heat.

Singapore is the furthest Kim has travelled since becoming leader, and he met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong within hours of arriving. The two men appeared jovial.

Trump’s Air Force One arrived later at the Paya Lebar air base.

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He alighted and rode off in The Beast – the security vehicle that travels the world with US presidents – and said he felt “very good”.

Singaporean taxi driver Liew said he was unable to deliver tourists to hotels in the city centre on Sunday but he was prepared to accept the downturn in fares and road closures if there was a shot at world peace.

"The big man [Trump] and the leopard [Kim] have arrived," he said. "Watch out for that leopard, he is smaller but he is faster than you might expect."

He predicted the two world leaders might get to a peace treaty by Tuesday evening, but denuclearisation would take much longer.

Even so, this young leopard presented a much greater opportunity for peace than his stubborn father or grandfather.

Both leaders were met by Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the respective airports.

Trump is due to meet Loong on Monday.

Trump is looking to lay the groundwork for a nuclear deal with one of America's most bitter long-time foes – just days after a divisive meeting in Canada with some of Washington's closest allies that further strained global trade ties.

President Donald Trump arrives  in Singapore for a summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.

President Donald Trump arrives in Singapore for a summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Credit:AP

The Kim-Trump summit at the resort island of Sentosa represents the first-ever talks between a US and North Korean leader and the culmination of a head-spinning diplomatic dance.

Such a meeting was unthinkable just months ago when Trump and Kim were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war in the region. But a series of diplomatic overtures involving North Korea, South Korea and the United States reduced tensions and led Trump in March to quickly accept Kim’s invitation to meet.

Trump initially touted the potential for a grand bargain with North Korea to rid itself of a nuclear missile programme that has advanced rapidly to threaten the United States, insisting he would swiftly achieve what previous US administrations have failed to do.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is greeted by Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at Changi International Airport.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is greeted by Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at Changi International Airport. Credit:AP

But he has since lowered expectations, saying the talks would be more about starting a relationship with Kim for a negotiating process that would take more than one summit. This has included backing away from an original demand for North Korea's swift denuclearisation.

Kim has given little sign of any willingness to dismantle his nuclear programme, which experts believe he sees as vital to the survival of his family's dynastic rule.

However, Trump and his aides insist that a US-led "maximum pressure" campaign of the toughest-ever economic sanctions, diplomatic action and military threats is what has drawn Kim to the negotiating table.

Trump frequently has boasted of his negotiating prowess as a former real estate developer, and his ability to read people, even though his businesses have declared multiple bankruptcies.

He said on Thursday that he didn't think he had to prepare very much for the summit and that "it's about attitude". But some US officials have questioned whether Trump was doing enough to get up to speed.

Trump told reporters in Canada on Saturday any agreement with Kim would be "spur of the moment", underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a "mission of peace".

That came as Trump threw the G7's efforts to show a united front into disarray after he became angry with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and said he might double down on import tariffs by hitting the sensitive auto industry.

Trump's bombshell announcement that he was backing out of the G7 communique, made after he left the summit in Canada early, torpedoed what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade dispute between Washington and its top allies.

– with Reuters