[US-NK Summit]Whirlwind of diplomatic activities leading to Trump-Kim summit
By Jung Min-kyung
With the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un scheduled for Tuesday morning in Singapore, Trump’s threat to rain “fire and fury” upon the reclusive nation almost a year ago seems like distant memory.
The Korea Herald has organized the sequence of key events leading up to the summit chronicling the whirlwind of diplomatic activities surrounding the US and the Korean Peninsula.
2017 – North Korea fires 23 ballistic missiles in 16 tests and claims it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb in September. It launches a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile called Hwasong-15 in November, which experts estimate is capable of reaching the US mainland.
Tensions between the two nations reach new heights with bellicose rhetoric exchanged between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Jan. 1: Kim Jong-un says he will send a delegation of athletes and ranking officials to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in his New Year’s address. While waving an olive branch to South Korea, Kim reminds the US that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk.
Hours later, Trump responds that he too has a “nuclear button” that is “much bigger and more powerful” than Kim’s.
Jan. 9: The two Koreas hold a high-level meeting at the border village of Panmunjeom, the first such talks since December 2015. They agree on the North sending athletes and delegates to the Winter Olympics in the South.
Feb. 8: North Korea holds a large-scale military parade on the eve of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. It puts ICBMs it launched in 2017 on display, with Kim Jong-un presiding over the event.
Feb 9: The Winter Olympics start in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. The two Koreas make a joint entrance at the opening ceremony and field a joint women’s ice hockey team.
North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam and Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong attend the opening ceremony. US Vice President Mike Pence sits in proximity, but avoids making contact with them.
Feb. 10: Kim Yo-jong extends an invitation to Pyongyang from her brother to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Moon refrains from accepting the invitation saying that both Koreas should work to “creating the right conditions” first.
March 5-6: South Korean envoys led by Moon’s national security director Chung Eui-yong visit Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and reports that Kim is willing to discuss denuclearization with the US.
March 8: South Korean envoys meet Trump in Washington and deliver an invitation from Kim to meet; Trump accepts on the spot.
March 27: Kim makes a surprise visit to Beijing for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an apparent move to strengthen his leverage ahead of any talks with Trump. This is known as his first overseas trip since coming to power in late 2011.
April 18: Trump confirms that Mike Pompeo, then-US CIA chief, had met Kim secretly in North Korea and said “a good relationship was formed” heading into the anticipated summit.
April 21: North Korea says it plans to suspend nuclear missile tests, while dismantling its nuclear test site, to instead focus on economic growth. Trump tweets: “This is very good news for North Korea and the World.”
April 27: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hold a summit in the South’s side of Panmunjeom. The leaders vow to cooperate in bringing about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
May 7: Kim meets Xi again in China and calls for stronger strategic cooperation between the traditional allies.
May 9: Pompeo, now US secretary of state, visits Pyongyang again to prepare for the planned Trump-Kim summit. North Korea releases three Americans detainees.
May 10: Trump announces he will meet with Kim in Singapore on June 12. He tweets: “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”
May 12: North Korea announces it will hold a ceremony dismantling its nuclear test site between May 23-25. It invites foreign reporters to witness the event.
May 16: North Korea abruptly cancels a high-level inter-Korean talks and also threatens to cancel the summit with Trump, citing regular US-South Korean military exercises. It also takes issue with US comments that the North should follow the “Libya model” of denuclearization by denuclearizing before receiving benefits.
May 22: Trump and Moon meet at the White House to discuss the Trump-Kim talks. The South Korean president says the “fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge” on the meeting in Singapore.
May 24: North Korea’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui calls US Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for his comments on the North and says it is up to the US whether they “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at (a) nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.” North Korea blasts its nuclear testing site in front of foreign journalists. Only a few hours later, Trump announces that he’s pulling out of the summit, citing the North’s “tremendous anger and open hostility.”
May 25: North Korea takes a step back and says it is willing to talk with the US “at any time, (in) any format.” Moon calls Trump’s decision to cancel the summit “very perplexing” and says Washington and Pyongyang should get the talks back on track.
May 26: Kim and Moon meet again in Panmunjeom, this time on the North’s side, in an effort to revive the summit with Trump. Kim reaffirms his commitment to denuclearize the peninsula but also said he is unsure whether he could trust the US to provide a credible security guarantee, according to Moon.
May 27: Sung Kim, US ambassador to the Philippines and former nuclear envoy, begin talks with Pyongyang’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui in Panmunjeom. They kick-off a series of meetings on summit agenda items.
May 30: North Korean envoy Kim Yong-chol, the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years, arrives in New York for pre-summit negotiations with Pompeo. In Singapore, North Korea’s de facto chief of staff Kim Chang-son meets with the White House’s deputy chief of staff for operations Joe Hagin to hammer out the details on logistics for the summit.
June 1: After meeting Kim Yong-chol at the White House, Trump says his meeting with Kim Jong-un is back on for June 12. Kim Yong-chol delivers a letter from his leader to Trump.
June 5: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweets the Trump-Kim meeting will be held at Singapore’s Capella Hotel at 10 a.m., announcing for the first time a specific venue and time for the summit.
June 10: Trump and Kim both arrive in Singapore, two days ahead of the summit. Kim arrives in an Air China plane at 2:36 p.m. (local time), while Trump arrives in Air Force One at 8:22 p.m.