Just hours before what could be the most important meeting of his life, a seemingly relaxed and confident Kim Jong Un took a night on the town in Singapore, taking selfies and being greeted by cheering onlookers.
Dressed in his trademark, ill-fitting, dark gray Mao suit, and sweating in Singapore’s tropical humidity, Kim visited some of Singapore’s most famous tourist attractions. The late-night jaunt was by far the most unfiltered public look at the young Kim, one of the world’s most reclusive leaders who oversees a tightly controlled dictatorship.
Kim smiled as he took a selfie with Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the scenic waterfront Gardens by the Bay. He was greeted by throngs of cheering onlookers at the Marina Bay Sands, an iconic tower trio connected by a boat-shaped roof. Kim finished off the night with a walk along a pedestrian bridge near the city’s Merlion Park.
The tour came approximately 12 hours ahead of Kim’s summit with U.S. President Donald Trump at Singapore’s secluded Sentosa Island. The talks are expected to focus at least in part on an eventual deal to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program. It will be the first time a sitting U.S. president has met with a North Korean leader.
North Korean leaders, who have been subject to some of the world’s toughest ever sanctions, have long wanted to meet with the U.S. president, in part because of the international legitimacy such a summit would provide. But Trump has lashed out at reporters for suggesting that the meeting with Kim will result in him giving up any negotiating leverage.
In the weeks leading up to the summit in Singapore, Trump praised Kim as "very honorable" and "very open," a stark contrast from the "Little Rocket Man" moniker Trump had previously bestowed on the North Korean leader. More recently, Trump has suggested he will raise human rights issues with Kim.
Olivia Enos of the U.S.-based Heritage Foundation is urging Trump to not ignore rights concerns. She dismisses Kim's late-night activities in Singapore as part of a months-long "charm offensive" aimed at cultivating good international press.
"It's important to remember who we are dealing with. The same guy enjoying late night lights on the waterfront at Marina Bay is the same guy who murdered his brother in Malaysia, killed his uncle Jang Song-thaek, and imprisons between 80,000 and 120,000 people in brutal prison camps," Enos says. "No amount of normal activities can undo that truth."
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested U.S. sanctions and other international pressure will continue until North Korea takes steps toward denuclearization. He said the summit will lay the ground work for the “hard work” ahead. It is not known what will be announced following the summit.
The White House says Trump will leave Singapore Tuesday, because the talks have “moved more quickly than expected.”