Kim’s big night out: North Korean leader goes sightseeing in Singapore
The young leader spends an evening on the town with just hours to go before his landmark meeting with Donald Trump
In the end, it was a walk in the park. No, not the historic summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump on Tuesday but a decision by Kim to take a break from preparations for the landmark session and go on a night tour of Singapore.
Kim and his entourage descended on the Gardens by the Bay, a sprawling mass of flora and fauna and man-made “super trees” – structures of steel and greenery – taking in the cool, balmy weather and glittering city lights
He left his hotel just after 9pm amid a media frenzy and a last-minute lockdown of several roads. With less than 12 hours to go before his scheduled 9am meeting with Trump, Kim emerged from the lift of the St Regis Hotel and walked straight out to his car.
Dressed in his signature dark Mao suit, he was surrounded by dozens of his black-suited bodyguards who ran by his car for a short distance in what appears to be a standard practice for Kim.
The large convoy stopped traffic along several downtown roads. Reporters and clients in the lobby were banned from taking photos or even holding mobile phones in their hands.
After the Gardens tour, Kim and his entourage went to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino and took the lift to the 57th floor for a bird’s-eye view of the city and its surrounding waters.
He smiled for the cameras and waved at the media and tourists gathered to catch a glimpse of him.
Later, Kim took a stroll along Jubilee Bridge to see the Esplanade, a spiky durian-shaped complex of theatres for the performing arts. The bridge, an iconic crossing built across the Singapore River, offers a view of the city’s dramatic skyline in the downtown area.
The schedule of the North Korean leader is always top secret for Pyongyang, but speculation grew throughout the day about his movements, with the South Korean news agency Yonhap reporting that he would visit facilities that showcase the city state’s economic advancement.
The night tour was also believed to be Kim’s first outing since his meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night at Istana, the official complex for the country’s top leaders.
Kim’s trip to the city for the meeting with Trump is significant considering that since taking over power in 2011 he has only left North Korea to visit China and the demilitarised zone separating his country from South Korea. Some analysts see the visit as a sign of the young leader’s growing confidence.
He surprised the world earlier this year when he announced a decision to suspend further nuclear testing and to shift focus to economic development.
For his trip to Singapore, Kim flew an Air China Boeing 747, usually used by the Chinese government to carry their top officials.
He is accompanied by his Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, the recently promoted Defence Minister Kim Yong-chol, and his close aide and sister Kim Yo-jong.
So far, all hotel staff, the South China Morning Post has been told, have been asked to sign agreements not to disclose any information about his activities.
“Keeping a secret shows how Singapore can be a trusted host,” said a hotel employee.
Another source told the Post that Kim brought his own chef to prepare all his meals.
Earlier in the day, there was a minor buzz as the media caught sight of Hyon Song-wol, head of North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra who gained prominence at the recent inter-Korea cultural exchanges. She was seen in the lobby of the St Regis Hotel and is believed to be part of his 100-strong entourage.