President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un have arrived in Singapore and are preparing to meet face-to-face for the first time on Tuesday. But while their meeting is historic in and of itself, the people they are (or aren't) bringing with them are just as attention-grabbing as those in attendance. One notable person not expected to be at the North Korea summit is Melania Trump.
In the past, Melania has joined her husband during diplomatic travel. Back in 2017, for example, she joined Trump on his first international trip, which included stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican. But, her presence isn't compulsory, and she has reportedly had health issues in the last month.
On May 14, Melania Trump was admitted to the Walter Reed Medical Center. According to multiple reports, including her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, she was treated for a benign kidney condition. While her sudden surgery was newsworthy, curiosity surrounding her health heightened when she wasn't seen in public for weeks after she was reportedly released from the medical facility. It wasn't until the first week of June, when she attended a hurricane season preparedness event, that anyone from the media got a glimpse of the first lady.
Though she made her first public appearance that week, Trump told reporters on Friday that Melania's doctors still didn't want her to travel to Singapore with him. "She wanted to go," he said on the South Lawn before beginning his trip, which stopped in Canada first, according to the New York Post. "Can’t fly for one month, the doctors say. She had a big operation, that was close to a 4-hour operation. And she’s doing great."
After Trump's comments to reporters, which seemed to reveal previously unknown information about the intensity of the procedure, Grisham reaffirmed the veracity of her original claims.
"The statement I put out on May 14 was correct," Grisham said in a statement, according to CNN. "Mrs. Trump had a successful embolization procedure. She cannot travel internationally yet, and is doing great."
During Melania's prolonged absence from the public eye, many both in the media and outside of it devoted a lot of attention to speculating where she might have been. Melania responded to these theories in a tweet.
"I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I'm doing," she wrote on May 30. "Rest assured, I'm here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!"
The North Korean summit will be considered historic before it even takes place. Never before has a sitting American president met with the North Korean leader, though North Korea has reportedly lobbied for a meeting with a U.S. president for decades. None of Kim's predecessors ever successfully organized such an event. Two presidents — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — met with North Korean leadership after their presidential terms ended, but none had agreed to a meeting while still in office.
The main topic of the summit is denuclearization, though whether any type of agreement will be reached is entirely unclear. North Korea has long leveraged its weapons program as one of its only deterrents against international pressure, and is unlikely to give up such a power very quickly. Upon arrival in Singapore, meanwhile, Trump told reporters that he was feeling "very good" about the upcoming summit. The two are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday, which is 9 p.m. EST Monday.