President Donald Trump has changed his schedule to leave the Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un early, because the nuclear talks with North Korea have moved “more quickly than expected,” the White House said on Monday.
The president was originally scheduled to fly back to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning after spending a full day of meetings Tuesday with the North Korean leader in Singapore. However, on the night before the summit, he altered his schedule, opting to go home at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
“The discussions between the United States and North Korea are ongoing and have moved more quickly than expected,” the White House said in a statement.
What type of progress was made during preliminary discussions between U.S. and North Korean officials, in the run-up to the Tuesday summit, wasn’t immediately clear as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lowered expectations by suggesting that the summit, while historic, might yield little in the way of concrete success other than to pave the way for more meetings in the future. This was after Trump had predicted earlier that the meeting could possibly yield an immediate deal to end the Korean War.
Trump, too, has recently sought to minimize expectations, saying additional meetings may be necessary. Asked Saturday about his goals, he said, “Well, I think the minimum would be relationship. You would start at least a dialogue, because, you know, as a deal person, I have done very well with deals.”
The secretary of state said, “North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearize, and we are eager to see if those words prove sincere.” He added, “The fact that our two leaders are sitting down face to face is a sign of the enormous potential to accomplish something that will immensely benefit both of our peoples and the entire world.”
“The ultimate objective we seek with diplomacy with North Korea has not changed,” he said. “The complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korea peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.”
Sec. of State Mike Pompeo says ultimate objective of diplomacy with North Korea has not changed.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 11, 2018
“We’re prepared to take actions that will provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearization isn’t something that ends badly for them,” Pompeo said, adding that talks were “moving quite rapidly and we anticipate they will come to their logical conclusion even more quickly than we had anticipated.”
The summit — the first ever between a sitting American president and North Korea’s leader — was to kick off at 9 a.m., the White House said. After greeting each other, the two leaders planned to sit for a one-on-one meeting that a U.S. official said could last up to two hours, with only translators joining them. The official was not authorized to discuss the plans and insisted on anonymity.
The White House said the daylong summit would also include a working lunch and a larger meeting involving aides to both leaders. On the U.S. side, Trump was to be joined by Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, along with several others.
Trump’s schedule change came just as both sides finished up preparations for the meeting. Trump predicted a “nice” outcome, while Kim Jong Un spent the day out of view.