He’s the leader of one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships, but North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was greeted with a rock star’s welcome Monday to Singapore ahead of his highly anticipated summit with President Trump.
Arriving at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, cheers and shouts of “Mr. Kim! Mr. Kim!” could be heard from a gathering of onlookers.
According to a schedule released by the White House, the summit will begin at 9:15 a.m. Singapore time Tuesday, which is 9:15 p.m. Monday night, Eastern Time.
A photo opportunity at the Capella hotel on the Singaporean island of Sentosa will take place before the two leaders meet.
The one-on-one meeting between Trump and Kim, with only their respective translators present, is scheduled to last about 45 minutes, with a focus on North Korea’s nuclear program.
At 10 a.m. Singapore time – 10 p.m. Monday in New York – the participants will be expanded to include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
The expanded bilateral meeting is scheduled to end at 11:30 a.m. local time when the U.S. and North Korean teams will have a working lunch.
At that time, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Ambassador Sung Kim and National Security Council Senior Director for Asia Matt Pottinger will join the U.S. team.
The president will speak to reporters at 4 p.m. Singapore time, or 4 a.m. Eastern Tuesday morning. Trump is expected to depart for the United States shortly after the media availability.
The U.S. has decided not to bring up human rights at the summit, two administration officials told NBC News.
Already, President Trump has assured Kim he would be willing to offer security guarantees and financial aid if the North Korean communist dictator gives up his nuclear arsenal.
“This would be with Kim Jong Un something where … he’d be running his country,” Trump said last month. “If we make a deal, I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”
Trump’s approach is in line with decades of U.S. policy with North Korea prioritizing denuclearization over holding the regime accountable for the severe oppression of its citizens, including murder, torture and starvation.
‘Completely and verifiably’
On the eve of the summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that North Korea will be offered new security concessions as an incentive to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
“There are only two people that can make decisions of this magnitude, and those two people are going to be sitting in a room together tomorrow,” Pompeo said Monday.
Monday night in Singapore, Kim went sightseeing for an hour, leaving in motorcade from his luxury hotel shortly after 9 p.m. At one stop, he posed for a selfie by Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan.
Asked by a reporter if Trump was considering withdrawing or reducing the 28,000 U.S. troops from South Korea – a major North Korean demand – Pompeo declined to answer but indicated an openness to some kind of realignment of the U.S. military presence on the peninsula.
North Korea also wants the United States to lower the “nuclear umbrella,” the shield defending against any attack by Pyongyang that is guaranteed by U.S. defense treaties with South Korea and Japan.
The Los Angeles Times noted the U.S. foreign policy establishment is wary of any easing of the U.S. regional defense posture as long as North Korea maintains its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The communist state also has a million-man army that mostly is deployed near the border with South Korea.
Pompeo emphasized economic sanctions would remain in place “until North Korea completely and verifiably eliminates its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.”
See Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s news conference in Singapore:
Guarding ‘the supreme leaders’ stools’
Kim, meanwhile, apparently is taking extraordinary measures to maintain his privacy and prevent intelligence agencies from gaining any insights into his health by bringing his own toilet to Singapore, according to according to the South Korean newspaper The Chosunilbo.
The newspaper said the portable toilet “will deny determined sewer divers insights into the supreme leader’s stools.”
USA Today pointed out Kim has deployed portable toilets in his travels to inspect military bases and state-run factories. He also brought one for his border-village meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.