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Trump meets Kim Jong Un: 5 things to watch at the summit

Will Dennis Rodman drop in?

by Greg Walters
Jun 11 2018, 9:31am

Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un begins at 9 a.m. in Singapore Tuesday morning, which is 9 p.m. ET in the U.S. Monday night.

The road to this summit has been bumpy, with Trump calling it off, then saying it's back on again.

The action will take place at Singapore’s Capella Hotel, located on Sentosa Island, a former pirate hangout now covered with golf courses. Trump — who’s developed quite a few golf courses himself — should feel right at home. For Kim, Singapore marks the furthest he’s ever traveled from his home country since taking power in 2011.

Now, with this unprecedented meeting of two notoriously unpredictable leaders just hours away, here’s what to watch for.

Meaningful talks, or a photo op?

The Trump administration has insisted that North Korea must commit to giving up its nuclear weapons program.

But while that may sound simple enough, the details are enormously complex.

For one thing, North Korea would need to open itself up to inspection by a team the U.S. actually trusts — from the United Nations, for example.

Doing so would mean granting foreigners an unprecedented degree of access into the secretive Hermit Kingdom’s internal affairs.

Is Trump gonna wing it?

Trump said last week he didn’t really need to prep for the summit.

“I don't think I have to prepare very much,” Trump told reporters in the White House. “It's about attitude. It's about willingness to get things done.”

But that’s led to concerns that the famously mercurial president might make decisions on the fly, without listening to his advisers — possibly even granting the North Koreans concessions without realizing it.

Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst specializing in Korean issues, has said her one piece of advice for Trump heading into this summit is to pay close attention to the experts at his elbow.

“Please listen to your advisers,” Terry said during a talk with former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell on the Intelligence Matters podcast. “This is not something that we can wing.”

Is this summit just the first of many?

Trump and his team have signaled that the Singapore summit will be the start, rather than the ending, of a process toward North Korea giving up its nukes.

Trump has even said if this meeting goes well, he may invite Kim to the White House.

But Sung-Yoon Lee, professor of Korean studies at Tufts University, said a drawn-out series of summits would serve Kim’s goals, not Trump’s.

READ: North Korea just axed its top three military officials

Kim may try to bait Trump with a multiple meetings in hopes of using a period of warmer relations to wriggle out of economic sanctions without making any firm commitments about giving up his nukes, Lee said.

“Kim is interested primarily in changing the atmospherics and having a drawn-out negotiation process,” Lee said. “How do you do that? You smile, and say, ‘Let’s meet again.’”

Will Trump bail?

Trump has said that if the meeting doesn’t appear fruitful, he’s prepared to just walk right out.

He’s already canceled the summit once.

But Lee said both sides have an incentive to try to paint the meeting, once it’s underway, as a success.

“In terms of the optics, things will go smoothly,” he predicted. “Everyone will proclaim this a constructive meeting.”

Will Dennis Rodman drop in?

The basketball legend has said he’ll be in Singapore to help out in any way he can.

Rodman remains one of the only people on earth to met both Trump and Kim — having visited North Korea five times, and appeared twice on Trump’s NBC reality show "Celebrity Apprentice."

So now, Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, and Dennis Rodman are all heading for Singapore.

What could go wrong?

Cover image: American President Donald Trump steps off of Air Force One at Paya Lebar Air Base on June 10, 2018 in Singapore. (Liu Zhen/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)