12 things you need to know about the Trump-Kim summit

"I know a lot about airplanes."
June 12, 2018, 12:26pm
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It was off, then on, then off again. But in Singapore Tuesday it finally happened — former reality TV star turned U.S. president Donald Trump met Kim Jong Un, the ruthless dictator of the Orwellian North Korean regime.

Seven hours later, following multiple handshakes, several meetings, a lavish lunch, one fat joke, the signing of a declaration and a sizable concession by Trump, it was all over.

The president said that despite not sleeping in 25 hours the summit had gone “better than anybody could imagine” and was a “very important event in world history.”


A full analysis of the summit will take some time, but experts were initially underwhelmed by the declaration and questioned Trump’s willingness to give up so much in return for so little.

Here’s a rundown of the key moments:

  • Dennis Rodman: Wearing a MAGA baseball cap and a Potcoin t-shirt, the former NBA star — who was in Singapore “to see what’s going on” — appeared on CNN, breaking down in tears while remembering his first trip to North Korea and the “death threats” he received when he came back to the U.S.

  • The handshake: In a highly-choreographed moment and against a backdrop of interspersed U.S. and North Korean flags, the leaders walked towards each other with Trump the first to extend his arm. The embrace lasted 12 seconds, and there was no sign of Trump’s signature arm yank — preferring instead to put a tender hand on Kim’s elbow.

  • Science fiction: The first interactions were slightly awkward, with interpreters doing most of the work. After initial pleasantries, Kim turned to Trump as the pair walked towards their first meeting, and said: “Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy, from a science-fiction movie.”

READ: Trump and Kim sign a "comprehensive" agreement of no real substance

  • Fat joke: Having progressed through the first few hours without a faux pas, Trump prepared to sit down for a working lunch with Kim when he addressed a photographer, asking if he was getting “a good photo so we look nice and handsome and thin and perfect.” Kim’s reaction to the comment suggests the portly dictator was not impressed.


  • Lunch: Both sides dined from a choice of beef short rib confit, sweet and sour crispy pork and Yangzhou fried rice and soy braised cod fish. For dessert, the leaders had the choice of dark chocolate tartlet ganache, vanilla ice cream and tropezienne.

  • The Beast: Trump and Kim then walked through the gardens of the Capella Hotel in Sentosa and in an unscripted moment the president showed Kim “The Beast,” the president’s armor-plated vehicle. Kim was given a rare view inside the $1.6 million vehicle, which is designed to survive a chemical attack.

  • Declaration: Described by Trump and Kim as “an epochal event of great significance,” the actual declaration was quickly criticized by analysts as little more than “flowery language” and “depressing” because of the complete lack of substantive details in the text.

  • The Pens: Trump signed the declaration with a black pen emblazoned with his own signature. A similar pen was laid out for Kim. Ahead of the signing a member of the Korean leader’s security team came in wearing white gloves and wiped the pen down. However at the last minute, Kim was handed a different pen by his sister, Kim Yo Jong, which he then put in this jacket pocket.”

  • Press Conference: After signing the declaration, the pair went their separate ways. Kim boarded a flight to Pyongyang, while Trump, reportedly awake for 25 hours at this point, conducted an hour-long press conference, telling the world’s media that Seoul had 28 million residents (it has less than 10 million); that he knows "a lot about airplanes”; and surprisingly that he doesn’t blame President Obama for the current situation in the region.
  • Human Rights: One of the big questions going into the summit was whether Trump would bring up North Korea’s horrific record on human rights. Trump told reporters he did bring it up, but gave no details about what Kim said. When asked about the hundreds of thousands of people currently held in a “network of gulags” in North Korea, Trump described them as “one of the great winners” from the summit.
  • War Games: The most substantive thing to come out of the press conference was Trump’s declaration that the U.S. was freezing its military exercises with South Korea while negotiations with Pyongyang continue. While Trump tried to frame the action as a cost-saving initiative, others said it was a major concession to Kim in return for very little.
  • Real Estate: Trump said he spoke to Kim about the real estate opportunity that North Korea has, given its location. “Think of it from a real estate perspective. You have South Korea, you have China and they own the land in the middle.” Trump said that from watching missile tests, North Korea appeared to have “great beaches.” The U.S. president says he told Kim: “Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo? Instead of [testing missiles] you could have the best hotels in the world right there.”

Cover image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images)