This Joke Trump Made At The North Korea Summit Did Not Amuse Kim Jong Un
There was at least one moment where Kim Jong Un was not impressed with the American president. During a three-course working lunch at Tuesday's summit with North Korea, Trump cracked a joke, asking the photographers in the room, "Getting a good picture everybody, so we look nice, and handsome, and thin?" The North Korean leader, standing across the luncheon table from Trump, did not laugh.
Although it is unclear the extent to which Kim is fluent in English and therefore whether or not he understood the joke, his expression appeared unamused, and possibly even a little shocked.
After greeting each other for the first time at Capella Singapore on Tuesday morning, Trump and Kim spent just under 40 minutes in a one-on-one meeting, followed by an expanded bilateral meeting with advisers from both the United States and North Korea present.
Trump later called the meeting a "very important event in world history," and claimed that Kim had given his commitment to dismantling his nuclear arsenal — analysts have since pointed out that all four points on the document the two leaders signed are steps North Korea has agreed to in the past, but ended up reneging on.
John Everard, former U.K. ambassador to North Korea, described the agreement as a "rather flimsy joint statement... that doesn’t really tell us anything very much," especially given that North Korea already agreed to commit to denuclearization in April.
The two leaders appeared cordial and somewhat cautious at their first handshake, which lasted about 12 seconds. Trump later praised Kim as a "very talented negotiator", but according to The Guardian, would not admit to considering Kim his equal.
Still, was Trump making a jab himself or at Kim over lunch? This, too, is unclear, though his joke could be seen by some as a reference to the name-calling past these two leaders share. In November, after a speech in which Trump referred to Kim as a "tyrant," the North Korean government released a statement calling Trump an "old lunatic."
Trump responded in a tweet, saying, "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!"
The joke also harkens back to headlines made by the White House last month after releasing a commemorative coin ahead of the Singapore summit. Minted by the White House Military Office, the coin features Trump and Kim in profile, facing each other in front of American and North Korean flags. Notably, Trump is leaning slightly forward, and is depicted with a sharper jawline than he appears to have in real life. In contrast, Kim was cast with a couple of extra rolls beneath his chin, and appears to be leaning slightly back.
The contrasting renderings of each leader were heavily mocked on social media as a display of Trump's ego and his fixation on the pageantry of the meeting. Many also criticized the coin for acknowledging Kim as "supreme leader" of North Korea, a title that seems to legitimize his regime, which has been accused of horrific human rights abuses.
Given the escalating mud-slinging the world has witnessed between Trump and Kim, the success — and civility — of Tuesday's summit was already under speculation. However, the on-again, off-again nature of the two leaders' relationship — and of their summit itself, seeing as it was briefly canceled last month — seemed to be mostly absent at the meetings.
Whether or not Trump was making a joke about Kim's weight — and the diplomatic implications of that — remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. These two leaders are at least closer to being friends now than they were last November.
More to come ...