There were handshakes and tears as US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Singapore. Tamer Fakahany reports on a historic day

IT was the greatest show on earth – at least for a day and according to its main protagonists, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That a global audience from Washington to Pyongyang and beyond was agape at such a once-inconceivable tete-a-tete, in the wake of threats of thermonuclear war and scathing personal insults, is not in doubt. But what substance emerged beyond the spectacle? And what other moments were seared into this segment of 21st Century history? Here is a look at what happened on Singapore’s Sentosa Island:

The substance

AFTER their aides joined for the working session following the first Trump-Kim one-on-one, Mr Trump signalled that things had gone “better than anybody could have expected” and something would be signed soon. That something turned out be a document, with no details provided at the ceremony, which was the first concrete development in what had been a substance-free day until then.

The contents of the document surfaced before Mr Trump’s news conference before he departed for home. It was thin on detail: the US president promising “security guarantees” to Pyongyang and Mr Kim recommitting to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

The Northern Echo:

Signing ceremony between US president Donald Trump and leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, at Capella, Singapore. Picture: Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/PA Wire

What was new in that news conference? Mr Trump said Washington would stop war games with Seoul. That is of huge significance – the military drills infuriate Pyongyang which sees them as rehearsals to topple the Kim dynasty. Mr Trump said he ultimately wants to bring US soldiers home from South Korea. There are nearly 30,000 stationed there. He also said Mr Kim agreed to destroy a “major” missile testing site, but offered no specifics.

Mr Trump said the denuclearisation process would start “very quickly”; the two developed “a very special bond”; and he “absolutely” would invite Mr Kim to the White House. The North Korean leader ignored reporters’ shouted questions whether he would make that momentous journey, but Mr Trump later said he had accepted the invitation. Mr Kim said the “world will see a major change” and he and Mr Trump “decided to leave the past behind”. The pair shook hands and exchanged farewells without interpreters as the summit ended.

Bye for now?

WHAT happens next? Will the two men meet again or will denuclearisation prove to be too big a hurdle? A three-way declaration also including South Korea on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War might be the next most plausible and high-profile development. China would need to be present as well.

The handshake

EARLIER at the day’s start, the choreographers and protocol teams did their work: both men emerged pretty much on cue, having left their respective hotels within minutes of each other, at the scheduled time of 9am from opposite porticos at the Capella Singapore hotel, to engage in a first handshake timed at 13 seconds.

It was not on the battling alpha male scale that characterised Mr Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron’s first greeting, but it was hearty.

The initial chat

“VERY, very good”, “excellent relationship”, “We will solve a big problem” – so pronounced Mr Trump in real-time positive spin. Mr Kim also rode the wave of optimism, adding, it “was not easy to get here” and that there “were obstacles but we overcame them to be here”.

Mr Kim, through his interpreter, captured the parallel universe which now serves as geopolitical reality: “Many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a ... science fiction movie.”

Towering behind the two leaders’ grip and grin were a striking series of American and North Korean flags side by side on an equal footing, almost interlocked. It was a stunning piece of imagery for Korea watchers across the peninsula given the 70 years of North Korean iconography in which the US standard was the flag of the devil.

Rodman’s tears

DENNIS RODMAN – the basketball star and one-time participant on Mr Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, and a fleeting acquaintance of Mr Kim – copiously wept during a live segment from Singapore with CNN. An emotional Rodman said he received a call from a White House employee before the summit to tell him the president was proud of him. He claimed he had “something to do with this North Korean situation”.