SINGAPORE — After weeks of doubts that they would come together for a summit, all the players had taken their places by Sunday on this island and prepared for an unprecedented dialogue about North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons and ending nearly 70 years of confrontation with the U.S.
Questions persisted about whether President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un could forge a relationship and reach a meaningful agreement. But both men moved decisively toward Tuesday’s summit, which will be the first time a U.S. president meets with a leader of the secretive and oppressive regime in Pyongyang.
Flying aboard Air Force One, Mr. Trump touched down at Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base, reminding Mr. Kim that it was now or never to make a deal. “I look forward to meeting him and have a feeling that this one-time opportunity will not be wasted!” he tweeted during the flight.
Earlier, Mr. Kim flew into Singapore’s Changi Airport aboard a Chinese jumbo jet.
He was whisked in a long motorcade to a hotel and then to a meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The sight of a black Mercedes-Benz limousine mounted with two North Korean flags — and at times with Mr. Kim’s dark-suited security detail jogging alongside the car — captivated the news media and other onlookers along the route.
The talk with Mr. Lee was a rare validation for Mr. Kim, who rarely meets with foreign leaders.
The trip to Singapore is the farthest he has traveled outside North Korea since becoming supreme leader in 2011. Since then, he had visited only China and recently the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.
Mr. Trump will have a bilateral meeting Monday with Mr. Lee of Singapore. Members of the American and North Korean delegations will meet Monday at the Ritz-Carlton to work on the deal.
While in Singapore, Mr. Kim is staying at the luxurious and expensive St. Regis Hotel, though it was unclear who was paying for the ritzy accommodations. The U.S. said it would not pick up the tab for Mr. Kim.
Mr. Trump is at the Shangri-La Hotel, a top choice for visiting dignitaries and high-level diplomatic events.
The hotels are located near each other in the upscale Orchard Road shopping district in downtown Singapore.
The two leaders will meet Tuesday at the Capella Hotel, about 10 miles away on Sentosa Island, off Singapore’s southern coast.
Mr. Trump flew in from Canada, where his get-tough trade policies riled fellow members of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.
Critics warned that Mr. Trump’s headstrong diplomacy bode poorly for the summit.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, vouched for the president’s negotiating prowess but described the choice to be made at the summit in startling terms.
“Donald Trump is not going to capitulate, so there’s really only two options — peace or war,” Mr. Graham told ABC’s “This Week.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, voiced optimism for a successful summit.
“I think the president does have a chance to put in motion meaningful dialogue,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Ms. Feinstein was among top Democrats who urged Mr. Trump to follow a set of five conditions in striking a deal, including that it be permanent. That is a departure from President Obama’s Iran deal, which had sunsetting provisions.
She insisted that the stakes were high now because, unlike Iran, North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and long-range missiles possibly capable of hitting the U.S.
“We will not let that problem stand, and the only alternative is to sit down and come up with an agreement — and also make it such that there is an incentive for North Korea to do that,” she said.
The goal of the summit is the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons facilities. As incentives, Mr. Trump will offer security guarantees for the Kim regime, the lifting of crippling sanctions, and economic development for the desperately poor and primitive country.
By agreeing to the summit, Mr. Trump has already elevated Mr. Kim’s stature on the world stage and added legitimacy to his brutal autocratic government. But Mr. Kim likely wants more, including recognition of his country’s status as a nuclear power on par with the U.S.
The summit also scored early concessions from Mr. Kim with the halting of nuclear and missile tests, the destruction of a nuclear test site and the return of three U.S. citizens who had been imprisoned in North Korea.
Joseph R. DeTrani, the former U.S. special envoy to the failed multilateral talks with North Korea from 2003 to 2009, said the potential benefits of the Trump-Kim summit far outweighed the risks.
“The president looked at 25 years of failed negotiations. North Korea now has more nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems than in the past,” he said. “And so he made a bold decision. He was invited to sit down with Kim Jong-un, and he’s sitting down with him.”
⦁ Tom Howell Jr. in Washington contributed to this report.