On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump will meet face-to-face for the very first time. Their summit is slated to take place in Singapore, and it will be the third time that Kim has left North Korea since becoming the country's head of state in 2011. The meeting is historic for many reasons, but it's also provided an opportunity to learn more about the reclusive country's leader, like why Kim Jong Un travels with his own toilet.
South Korean news outlet The Chosunilbo reports that the portable toilet is intended to prevent anyone from diving into sewers to retrieve and/or study Kim's excrement. In other words, it's to prevent any unauthorized party from gaining any insight into Kim's health. The toilet reportedly arrived with Kim's bulletproof limo, landing in Singapore even before he did.
Kim rarely leaves North Korea, where he holds the title of Supreme Leader. When he does leave, he travels with extremely strict security. Not only does he ride around in a bulletproof limo, but the limo itself is surrounded by bodyguards who jog alongside it as it moves. The same setup was utilized when Kim visited South Korea last April.
Though Kim's security concerns regarding his bathroom usage may seem a little odd at first, they're actually historically founded. As the BBC explains, back in the 1940s, Joseph Stalin's secret police had a department that hunted down stools belonging to persons of interest, in order to learn more about them. According to the BBC, Mao Zedong may have been one of the leaders whose excrement was retrieved for study.
Kim's meeting with Trump is the first of its kind. Not only have the two leaders never met, but no North Korean leader has ever met with a sitting U.S. president. According to a litany of reports, North Korea has been lobbying for a such a summit for decades. However, up until now, the only U.S. presidents to meet with North Korean leadership were those who were no longer in office. Those include such figures as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Trump and Kim are in Singapore because, according to the White House, it was one of the most logical places to choose. "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," a White House official told CNBC last week. "They are one of very few countries that have relationships with both countries."
The topic at hand is denuclearization, though the outcome of the discussion is incredibly difficult to predict. Trump and Kim have long had quite a contentious relationship. Just months ago, the pair made regular headlines for openly sparring, with each party threatening military action against the other. The announcement that they would meet in person came, for many, as quite a shock.
However, just as surprising as the announcement that they would meet was the announcement that they would not. Just weeks ago, Trump issued a letter notifying North Korea that the summit was off, citing the country's "tremendous anger and open hostility." That plan did not last very long, and soon the meeting was back on.
According to MSNBC, Trump will use the meeting as an opportunity to meet and get to know Kim. He reportedly doesn't expect a concrete denuclearization deal to result from the summit.
However, if Kim even suggests a willingness to pivot toward denuclearization, the meeting may be viewed as a success. Stymieing North Korea's weapons program has been an international concern for quite a while, and Kim's willingness to talk could be a sign that times are changing.