9 North Korea Summit Questions You Were Too Afraid To Ask
As President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gear up for their historic meeting in Singapore, there are a lot of lingering unknowns. Questions about the U.S.-North Korean summit are almost too many to count, but at least a handful of them have answers.
According to multiple reports, Trump touched down in Singapore's Paya Lebair Air Base at 8:21 p.m. local time on Sunday. Kim arrived a few hours prior. The two are slated for a 9 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, which, for those in the United States, is a 9 p.m. ET on Monday.
The summit has people around the world on the edge of their seats because, not only has a meeting like this never happened before, but just months ago, Kim and Trump were openly sparring, each threatening military action against the other. And last month, no sooner was the summit announced than it was abruptly canceled, with Trump citing the North Korean government's "tremendous anger and open hostility."
Trump has since changed his tune, but has underscored that this is the only chance North Korea will have to engage in direct diplomacy with him while he is president. For the moment, however, he appears optimistic. When he arrived in Singapore on Sunday, he told reporters that he was feeling "very good" about the meeting.
Still, this is brand new territory, and there's a lot to know as the historic meeting approaches.
Does Kim Jong Un Speak English?
By and large, experts believe and reports indicate that Kim Jong Un studied English while he was in school, though whether or not he's entirely fluent is a little unclear. According to a Telegraph report from 2012, Kim did very poorly in class, and reportedly missed many days of school. Whether that had an impact on his English retention isn't known.
As for Kim's English-speaking and how it's going to affect his conversations with Trump — an interpreter is expected to attend their summit. While it's possible this could impact the candor of the meeting, they'll have a conduit for communicating, either way.
Why Are They Meeting In Singapore?
As a general rule, diplomatic summits take place in a neutral third-party location so that neither party enjoys any sort of home-field advantage. This ensures that both members are away from home and meeting in a place that doesn't have a personal investment in how the conversation plays out.
As for Singapore, a White House official told CNBC that it was selected because they are in contact with both the United States and North Korea.
"Singapore was selected because they have been willing to hold it, and because they have diplomatic relations with both the U.S. and North Korea," the official said. "They are one of very few countries that have relationships with both countries."
What Is The Ultimate Goal?
If both countries — and Singapore — are going through all the trouble of organizing such a high-profile meeting of world leaders, there must be some type of end goal. At face value, the U.S.-North Korea summit seems to be an opportunity for testing the waters between two historically adversarial states. But there is something much more specific at stake: denuclearization.
To be clear, this is not the Iran deal, and a comprehensive plan for stymieing North Korea's nuclear program is not expected. But North Korea, often referred to as the "Hermit State," has long wielded its weapons as both a bargaining chip and an ominous deterrent against international pressure. If a conversation concerning denuclearization can begin to take shape, it would be considered a move in the right direction, not just by the United States but by the international community.
Has The U.S. Ever Met With North Korea Before?
Yes and no. No sitting president has met with a North Korean leader, though at least two former presidents — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — have made trips once they were out of office. Similarly, diplomats have occasionally been sent to speak to North Korean leaders, like Madeleine Albright did in 2000.
According to Time, North Korea has been lobbying for a meeting with a U.S. president since at least the 1990s. However, neither Kim nor his predecessors had successfully negotiated a summit.
Who Else Is Going?
Heads of state never travel alone, especially not to highly anticipated events. Trump, of course is no exception. Time reported that he will be joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Several other top officials are also expected to travel along.
As for Kim, his party is a little less unclear. His long-time friend Dennis Rodman announced that he will be in Singapore at the same time as the summit, but it is unlikely that he will be directly involved in talks. Kim will likely travel with close advisers and security officials.
Will Ivanka Trump Be At The Summit?
The short answer is no, First Daughter Ivanka Trump will not attend the U.S.-North Korean summit. Although she has, at times, functioned as her father's surrogate, she will be sitting this diplomatic event out.
While she is an official presidential advisor, Trump appears to be leaving this meeting up to those whose jobs are more primarily focused on national and international security.
What Do North Koreans Think About The Summit?
According to the BBC, North Korea has not yet highlighted to its citizens that the meeting with President Trump is scheduled to take place, or where, though they likely know that summit is supposed to eventually happen somewhere. Historically, the news network reports, the North Korean government doesn't share information about important events until after those events have taken place.
Reportedly, North Korea has told its citizens that American leaders initiated the meeting. But, since information is highly controlled in the reclusive state, it's difficult to know exactly what impression North Korean citizens have of any type of U.S.-North Korean meeting. Even after it takes place, it may be a while before the outside world learns their opinions.
What's Security Going To Be Like?
As if security around the American president hasn't already been top of the line, security around Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un is expected to be especially intense, particularly for Kim. Not only is the meeting going to necessarily attract a ton of attention, but it's only the third time that Kim has visited a foreign country since ascending to power.
Kim is expected to travel in bulletproof vehicles, CNBC reports, and he will also likely bring his own chef along to prepare his food while he is abroad. Reuters reported that other guests at the hotel where Kim is staying were told not to take photos of Kim as he entered and exited. And additionally, as was the case when he visited South Korea, bodyguards jogged alongside his limo as it drove down the street in Singapore.
Whose Idea Was It In The First Place?
The precise details behind the summit's genesis have not been widely reported. North Korea has wanted to meet with a sitting U.S. president for decades, but has thus far failed to do so.
The Associated Press reported in April that North Korea was pushing for a meeting for quite some time. "We have been told directly that they would like to have the meeting as soon as possible. We think that's a great thing for the world," Trump said at the time. "Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing."
Whether this summit is the result of a single invitation isn't entirely clear.
Kim and Trump each have reputations for being unpredictable leaders. So, when it comes down to it, no one really knows what to expect when the two sit down to speak to each other, or how either one will characterize the meeting after it's over. For now, just about every prediction is based on speculation, making it truly a wait-and-see event.