President Donald Trump shook his hand for 13 long seconds, patted him on the back and led him down a rich red carpet. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be considered the world’s greatest human rights abuser and a totalitarian collector of nuclear weapons, but as they met for the first time here Tuesday, Trump declared himself honoured.
“We will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt,” the U.S. president said with a smile, settling into an armchair opposite the North Korean leader. American and North Korean flags framed the improbable detente between two men who at the start of the year were hurling insults at one another and appeared on the brink of nuclear war.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Trump flattering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un:
1. The extraordinary tableau was a stark contrast to what had transpired three days earlier and half a world away in Canada, where an embittered Trump sat sternly, his arms crossed and his face impassive, as the leaders of America’s oldest Western allies pleaded with him not to rupture the established world order with his retaliatory trade policies.
2. For Trump, the Group of Seven summit in Quebec was an irritating obligation, but his tête-à-tête with Kim here was a bid for history.
3. The lush Capella hotel on the resort island of Sentosa may be the most important stage thus far of Trump’s presidency. By personally negotiating terms for North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons with the rogue country’s reclusive leader – something previous American presidents did not do – Trump put his brand of transactional, mano-a-mano diplomacy to a test.
4. Distrustful of tradition and determined to reimagine America’s alliances, Trump approached North Korean talks as he had real estate deals when he was a Manhattan developer. He turned a blind eye to differences of principle and history – refusing to directly confront the reality that Kim oversees a vast police state, starves his citizens and assassinates his rivals – in the interest of completing a transaction.
5. Rather than approach Kim as a pariah, Trump showered him with respect and even flattery, enthused to shake hands with a monstrous figure in part, perhaps, because his monstrosity is his source of power.
6. By simply jetting here for the summit, Trump effectively threw a coming-out party for Kim and afforded his rogue state the international prestige it has long sought. Crowds of people on the streets of Singapore cheered Kim like a visiting celebrity, and images of his meeting with Trump were broadcast around the globe.
7. Kim, beaming and visibly proud of his audience with the president, told Trump through an interpreter, “Old prejudices and practices work as obstacles in our way forward, but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”
Trump, who turns 72 on Thursday, greeted Kim, 34, with the same firm handshake and familiar clasp of the arm, as well as the take-charge guiding hand on the back, with which he routinely welcomes foreign counterparts to the Oval Office.
8. Critics, including some Republicans, have said Trump gave away important leverage by agreeing to meet Kim as an equal, without an explicit agreement about nuclear weapons eradication beforehand. Trump dismisses that as old thinking and an unwillingness to give him credit.
The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers. We have our hostages, testing, research and all missle launches have stoped, and these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say! We will be fine!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
9. North Korea pressed ahead with nuclear development despite two previous agreements involving U.S. presidents, and on Trump’s watch has appeared to reach the ability of hitting the mainland United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.
With that leverage, Kim was ready to consider a bargain.
10. Trump’s willingness to meet Kim as an equal recalls his “respect” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite Putin’s suppression of political opposition, jailing of journalists and his government’s alleged poisoning of a former spy on British soil.
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News last year, before the British attack. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”