After what seemed like an endless back-and-forth, a highly-anticipated summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 is officially on – again.
Trump made the announcement on Friday after welcoming Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man, Kim Yong-chol, to the White House to talk about Washington’s demands of denuclearisation in the Korean Peninsula.
“The process will begin on June 12 in Singapore,” he told White House reporters.
But he conceded that Kim Jong-un “wants to be careful” with his decision, and that “he is not going to run and do things” as demanded by the US government.
“I told them, take your time. We can go fast, we can go slow.”
Trump’s made-for-television announcement on Friday was the latest twist in the trans-Pacific political and diplomatic drama that at times unfolded in real time, and has been closely followed on social media.
Disputes between Washington and Pyongyang led Trump to cancel the June 12 meeting on May 24 – only to see a flurry of diplomatic efforts surrounding the proposed summit in recent days.
On that same day, North Korea had announced that it had “demolished” its nuclear facility at Punggye-ri.
A number of diplomatic events ensued, including a surprise second meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim at the North Korean side of the border village of Panmunjom on May 26.
Here are some of the important highlights, developments and diplomatic twists about the Korean Peninsula and the Singapore meeting leading to Trump’s announcement on Friday:
January 1: Following months of provocative weapons tests that included the detonation of a purported thermonuclear warhead and three long-range missile launches, Kim says in his New Year’s address that he has a nuclear button on his desk but also calls for improved relations with South Korea. Trump responds that he has a bigger and more powerful nuclear button, “and my Button works!”
January 9: North and South Korean officials meet in Panmunjom and agree on North Korea sending athletes and delegates to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. North Korea sends hundreds of people to the event in February, including Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo-jong, who conveys her brother’s desire for a summit with Moon.
February 9: South Korean and North Korean athletes march as one delegation during the opening of the Olympics. Kim’s sister and the North’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, joined Moon and his wife at the viewing stand.
March 7: After visiting Kim in Pyongyang, Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean presidential national security director, says the North Korean leader is willing to discuss the fate of his nuclear arsenal with the US.
March 9: Trump accepts Kim’s invitation to meet following a conversation with Moon’s envoys.
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 in advance of his negotiations with Trump.
April 18: Trump confirms that Mike Pompeo, then the CIA chief, had met secretly with Kim in North Korea and said “a good relationship was formed” heading into the adversaries’ anticipated summit.
April 21: North Korea says it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site as part of a move to shift its national focus and improve its economy. Trump tweeted, “This is very good news for North Korea and the World” and “big progress!”
May 7: Kim meets Xi again in China and calls for stronger “strategic cooperation” between the traditional allies amid shifts in the region’s political environment.
May 9: Mike Pompeo, now US secretary of state, makes another visit to Pyongyang to prepare for the planned Trump-Kim summit. North Korea releases three Americans who had been imprisoned, and they return with Pompeo to the US.
May 10: Trump announces he will meet 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 says it will hold a ceremony to dismantle its nuclear test site between May 23 and 25 and foreign journalists will be invited to attend.
May 16: North Korea breaks off a high-level meeting with South Korea and threatens to cancel Kim’s summit with Trump in protest over US-South Korean military exercises. North Korea says it won’t be unilaterally pressured into abandoning its nukes.
May 22: Trump and Moon meet at the White House and express optimism for a successful summit between Trump and Kim. Moon says the “fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge” on the meeting in Singapore.
May 24: North Korean senior diplomat Choe Son Hui releases a statement referring to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” for his comments on North Korea and saying it was up to the Americans whether they would “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown”.
May 25: North Korea says it’s still willing to sit for talks with the US “at any time, (in) any format.” Moon says Trump’s move to cancel the summit was “very perplexing” and calls for Washington and Pyongyang to get the talks back on track.