President Trump and Kim Jong Un met at the luxurious Capella Resort on Sentosa island in Singapore and their warm handshake and smiles seem to signal that the days of name-calling and North Korean rocket launching may be over.

“Nice to meet you Mister President,” Kim said as he sat alongside Trump, against a backdrop of North Korean and U.S. flags, beaming more broadly as the U.S. president gave him a thumbs up. Trump said he was sure they would have a “terrific relationship”

With cameras of the world’s press trained on them, Trump and Kim displayed an initial atmosphere of bonhomie.

“I feel really great,” Trump said. “It’s gonna be a great discussion and I think tremendous success. I think it’s gonna be really successful and I think we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.”

Kim replied: “Well, it was not easy to get here. The past has … placed many obstacles in our way but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”

Trump and Kim then had a 45-minute private huddle with 2 translators before staging another session with the press.

Moments later, Trump and Kim rejoined senior officials from both nations for a meeting that would get into the nitty-gritty of a possible nuclear disarmament deal.

‘Of course there will be challenges ahead, but I am ready to listen,’ Kim could be heard telling the U.S. president in the group setting, through a translator. ‘We overcame all kinds of skepticism and speculations about this summit, and I believe that this is good for the peace.’

Trump told him, ‘We will solve [this]. We will be successful. And I look forward to working on it with you. It will be done.’

In their very first greeting, Trump set the tone for the talks, sending Kim an outstretched hand and patting the dictator’s right elbow with the other. Neither man smiled during the formal photo, taken on a red carpet in front of alternating American and North Korean flags.

As they turned the corner to head into their first set of talks, however, in an area that Trump may have thought was off camera, the U.S. leader broke into a smile as he exchanged quiet words with Kim and another handshake that lasted several seconds.

A third grip-and-grin followed brief remarks to press inside the portion of their one-on-one meeting that was open to cameras.

The Meeting

After four hours, the two leaders met to sign a comprehensive historic agreement. Kim noted that the document was going “to leave the past behind”.

The Washington Examiner published the joint statement of Trump and Kim:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

However, it appears to have a more symbolic nature than anything else as it does not mention sanctions or to sign a peace treaty in the end. Anthony Ruggiero at the Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the deal “looks like a restatement of where we left negotiations more than 10 years ago and not a major step forward.”

The president described the agreement as “very comprehensive,” but it does not offer the details “on how to make the denuclearization process quick, verifiable or irreversible—often stated U.S. goals.” The Wall Street Journal noted that the agreement mirrors the one signed by the two Koreas in their April significant summit: “It didn’t codify Pyongyang’s unilateral moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, or contain any reference to sanctions relief. It made a general pledge to a security guarantee for North Korea but didn’t offer any specifics or make any mention of the status of U.S. military forces in South Korea.”

Media reports claimed that Trump did not speak about human rights during the meeting, but Trump stated that the subject “was discussed relatively briefly compared to denuclearization.”

Trump said that Kim told him “that North Korea is already destroying a major missile engine testing site.” To everyone’s surprise, Trump announced that the U.S. will stop war games with South Korea as he finds it “inappropriate” as the two Koreas “are in the middle of a new agreement aimed at defusing the Korean peninsula.”

Trump said that he trusts the North Korean dictator, but insisted that the U.S. will “have to check him” and that “we’ll check him strongly,” but that Kim “has a plan total and complete.” Trump did not offer any details on that plan, though.

The movie left our ally confused:

“At this moment we need to figure out President Trump’s accurate meaning and intention of this comment,” said the statement from the Blue House. “However, we believe we need to seek various measures how to efficiently move forward the dialogues [as] serious talks are being conducted to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and establish relationships between North Korea and the United States.”

Body Language

They say actions speak louder than words and you can usually tell what is really going on by watching a person’s moves like the handshakes as Time described with help from body language expert Traci Brown:

Trump initiated all three handshakes exchanged so far, even though he’s called shaking hands a “barbaric” way to greet someone. Trump’s grip and grins with Kim also notably steered cleared of the death grip yanks he has previously exercised on world leaders, including Japan’s Shinzo Abe and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

“Trump went out of his way to play host. That’s a nice way of showing control over Kim,” says Brown.

There have been many interesting moments, especially for body language watcher.

You can’t dismiss the height and age advantage that Trump has over the dictator. Brown told Time via email that this “makes ALL the difference in the image” since “[T]owering over his North Korean counterpart confers Trump an immediate, visual upperhand.”

The fact that Trump touched Kim’s arm numerous times helps “signal power and Trump’s desire to look in control of the meeting.”

But we need to remember cultural differences as well. Politico wrote that people on Twitter wrote about awkward eye contact, but there’s a reason for that:

While some viewers used Twitter to talk about awkward eye contact, Pease explained that it was a cultural difference rather than a sign of submission. Differing perspectives spoke volumes of the immense culture gap and differences at play between the nations.

In the West, it is disingenuous not to look someone in the eye, whereas in Korean culture it is polite not to make full eye contact with someone who is elder or superior. Kim displayed the same courtesy to South Korea’s Moon when they met in April.

Other Details

Surprisingly, my very favorite moment so far came from CNN…whose sole North Korea expert was Dennis Rodman wearing a Make America Great Again hat and dissing Obama.

Speaking of which, here is the hot souvenir from Singapore.

I would like to conclude by noting it was exactly one year ago that President Trump’s team secured the release of Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after his return due to the massive trauma sustained while being tortured in North Korea. Though we may never know what happened, I would like to think his executioner was among the 200 hard-line North Koreans who died when the nation’s nuclear test mountain collapsed.

I will also hope that the recent removal of other old-time militants will mean that Kim will continue to work toward economic reforms and a healthier governmental model and that this process has now officially begun.

*Leslie Eastman wrote the first draft of this post. Mary Chastain updated with the latest breaking news.


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