Iso­lated Kim takes big gamble leav­ing home for Trump sum­mit

Manteca Bulletin - - Nation -

SIN­GA­PORE (AP) — Spare a mo­ment, as you an­tic­i­pate one of the most un­usual sum­mits in mod­ern his­tory, to con­sider North Korea’s leader as he left the all-en­com­pass­ing bub­ble of his locked­down strong­hold of Py­ongyang on Sun­day and stepped off a jet onto Sin­ga­pore soil for his planned sit-down with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day.

There’s just no re­cent prece­dent for the gamble Kim Jong Un is tak­ing.

As far as we know, his despot fa­ther only trav­eled out of the coun­try by train, and rarely at that, be­cause of fears of as­sas­si­na­tion. Kim, up un­til his re­cent high-pro­file sum­mit with South Korea’s pres­i­dent on the south­ern side of their shared bor­der, has usu­ally hun­kered down be­hind his vast pro­pa­ganda and se­cu­rity ser­vices, or made short trips to au­to­crat-friendly China.

While Sin­ga­pore has au­thor­i­tar­ian lean­ings, it is still a thriv­ing bas­tion of cap­i­tal­ism and wealth, and Kim will be per­form­ing his high-stakes diplo­matic tight-rope walk in front of 3,000 in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists, in­clud­ing a huge con­tin­gent from the ul­tra-ag­gres­sive South Korean press — some­times re­ferred to by Py­ongyang as “rep­tile me­dia” — two of whom were ar­rested by Sin­ga­pore po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing a re­port of tres­pass­ing at the res­i­dence of the North Korean am­bas­sador.

While he fa­mously at­tended school in Switzer­land, trav­el­ing this far as supreme leader is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter for some­one used to be­ing the most revered, most pro­tected, most de­ferred to hu­man in his coun­try of 25 mil­lion. Kim is, es­sen­tially, up­set­ting two decades of care­fully chore­ographed North Korean state­craft and step­ping into the un­known.

There’s wild spec­u­la­tion about how Kim will per­form on the world stage, al­though one ques­tion was an­swered Sun­day: His grim-faced, well-mus­cled body­guards marched along­side his ar­mored limou­sine at one point in Sin­ga­pore, just as they did when he met the South Korean leader in April. But amid the cu­rios­ity is an even more fun­da­men­tal ques­tion: Why is he tak­ing this risk at all? Here’s a look:


First the nuts and bolts: How do you pro­tect what many North Kore­ans con­sider their sin­gle most pre­cious re­source, the third mem­ber of the Kim fam­ily to rule and a di­rect de­scen­dant of North Korea’s wor­shipped founder Kim Il Sung?

Hun­dreds of North Korean se­cu­rity ex­perts have no doubt been up nights won­der­ing how to safe­guard Kim Jong Un since Trump shocked the world by ac­cept­ing the North’s in­vi­ta­tion to meet.

Kim ar­rived Sun­day on a Chi­nese plane, not his of­fi­cial plane, which is called “Cham­mae-1” and named after the goshawk, North Korea’s na­tional bird.

Kim may have shipped over the mas­sive bul­let­proof and fire­proof limou­sine that be­came a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion when Kim was shown be­ing driven across the bor­der be­tween the Koreas dur­ing his first sum­mit with South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, in April, with a dozen staunch body­guards en­cir­cling the auto. He could be seen speed­ing through Sin­ga­pore on Sun­day in a black limou­sine adorned with large North Korean flags.

Sin­ga­pore’s The Straits Times re­ported ear­lier this month that the Sin­ga­pore govern­ment de­clared that four black BMW sedans with ar­mored bod­ies that can with­stand gun­shots, ex­plo­sives and grenades were ex­empt from cer­tain traf­fic rules through June 30. The news­pa­per said the ve­hi­cles weren’t from a lo­cal au­tho­rized dealer, which sug­gests the cars were brought in specif­i­cally for the sum­mit and may be used by Kim.

Kim’s body­guards trav­eled with him, pro­vid­ing trusted pro­tec­tion to back up lo­cal Sin­ga­pore se­cu­rity who were con­trol­ling the perime­ter and crowds,

One ben­e­fit of Sin­ga­pore from the North Korean point of view is that there will prob­a­bly not be any anti-North Korea protests dur­ing Kim’s stay. “Sin­ga­pore is like a po­lice state. How can such ral­lies take place there? Any­one in­volved in ral­lies would be ar­rested,” said Choi Kang, vice pres­i­dent of Seoul’s Asan In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies.

Kim ar­rived Sun­day at the St. Regis ho­tel, where his close aide has been based as he leads a North Korean ad­vance team ar­rang­ing se­cu­rity and lo­gis­tics de­tails. South Korea’s Hankook Ilbo re­ported that Sin­ga­pore rec­om­mended the St. Regis, which hosted Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping dur­ing his 2015 sum­mit with Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent Ma Ying­jeou, be­cause it can be eas­ily se­cured.


The short an­swer might be that, de­spite his safety wor­ries, Kim could end up get­ting much more out of this sum­mit than he will have to give up.

The standard think­ing goes that he needs quick help to sta­bi­lize and then re­build an econ­omy that has suf­fered amid a decades-long pur­suit of nu­clear bombs, and that the North Kore­ans see a unique chance to win con­ces­sions, le­git­i­macy and pro­tec­tion from a meet­ing with a highly un­con­ven­tional U.S. pres­i­dent who’s willing to con­sider op­tions past Amer­i­can lead­ers would not.

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