Kim Jong Un is desperately worried about next month’s summit with President Trump in Singapore. Not that the North Korean fears he’ll be out-maneuvered by America’s reality-TV president — but that a military coup at home will oust him from power while he’s away.
Kim thinks that being so far from home will leave him exposed to an internal attempt to unseat him, according to sources familiar with his plans who spoke to the Washington Post. He is also reportedly worried about his personal safety during the trip to Southeast Asia, and even having enough fuel for his plane to make the 3,000-mile round trip.
Kim is the third generation of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953, following on from his equally despotic grandfather Kim Il Sung and father Kim Jong Il.
The dictator has sought to cement his position since taking power in 2011, quickly removing his father’s chief of staff Ri Yong Ho and defense minister Kim Yong Chun. In 2013 he executed his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek.
Kim reportedly masterminded the assassination of his half-brother Kim Jong Nam last year, who was poisoned by the toxic nerve agent VX.
A 2017 report from the Rand Corporation found that most North Korea elites view Kim as a weak leader, adding that they are unlikely to choose a successor from within his family.
“For the Kim family, everyone is a potential enemy,” Choi Min Jun, a North Korean defector living in South Korea, told the BBC. “The North Korean military, the General Staff Department, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, as well as the entire North Korean people, they are all potential enemies.”
Fortunately for Kim, the meeting could be cancelled at the behest of Donald Trump.
“There's a very substantial chance that it won't work out,” Trump told reporters in a press conference with South Korean president Moon Jae In. “That doesn't mean that it won't work out over a period of time, but it may not work out for June 12.”
Even before Trump’s comments, there were signs the summit was in jeopardy.
A North Korean delegation failed to show up for a planning meeting with U.S. officials in Singapore two weeks ago — a failure that raised red flags at the White House, according to the Washington Post’s sources.
U.S. officials are returning to Singapore this weekend for another scheduled meeting with the North Korean counterparts.
Last week North Korea publicly threatened to pull out of the summit citing comments from National Security Adviser John Bolton, and the ongoing joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea.
Cover image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un departs to North Korea after the farewell ceremony at the Peace House building in the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea on April 27, 2018. (INTER-KOREAN SUMMIT / POOL/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)