The National Today

Summit, sightseeing, shopping: Kim Jong-un entourage makes most of all-expenses-paid vacation

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: the North Korean summit delegation is taking full advantage of the trip to Singapore while their hosts pick up the tab; rumours about child kidnappers has led to at least nine deaths in India.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walks out of the Marina Bay Sands during a city tour in Singapore on Monday. (Mast Irham/EPA-EFE)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


TODAY:

  • North Korea's summit delegation is taking full advantage of the trip to Singapore while their hosts pick up the tab
  • Hysteria about rumours of child kidnappers has led to at least nine deaths in India
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here


Summit, sightseeing and shopping spree

The stakes are high, and both sides appear prepared for failure.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will begin their historic summit early Tuesday morning in Singapore — tonight in North American time zones — with a face-to-face meeting and only their personal translators assisting.

But little time is being left for serious negotiations afterwards, despite the Americans dangling what they call an "unprecedented security guarantee" in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

A man near the St. Regis hotel in Singapore reads a local newspaper Monday showing an article on the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Kim and his delegation are scheduled to leave Singapore — on their borrowed Air China jet — as soon as 2 p.m. local time, just five hours after the much-ballyhooed talks are scheduled to begin.

The White House today announced that the U.S. president will follow suit, heading back to Washington by early evening instead of staying until Wednesday as previously planned.

If a deal fails to materialize, it might be difficult for Trump to spin his gamble to come to the table with North Korea — rewarding the Hermit Kingdom's strategy of threats and provocations — as a win.

But it's already clear what Kim is getting beyond attention and legitimacy — an all-expenses-paid vacation.

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on Monday. Trump now plans to head back to the U.S. after his meeting with Kim Jong-un on Tuesday, rather than staying until Wednesday as originally planned. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Singapore's Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, today confirmed that the host is footing the bill for the North Korean delegation's stay at the posh St. Regis hotel — part of a $20 million US outlay for the exercise in high-wire diplomacy.

The lush, five-star property near the city-state's botanical gardens describes itself as "the apotheosis of luxury." It offers such perks as airport transfers in a Bentley, butler service, a tropical spa pool, and an impressive art collection featuring works by Picasso, Chagall and Miró. Its most bare-bones rooms start at $330 CDN a night. And the $45 buffet breakfast costs about half the average monthly salary of a North Korean worker.

(The U.S. delegation, which is paying its own way, is staying about a kilometre away at the  Shangri-La Hotel, an equally impressive pile where a cut-rate room costs $348 a night.)

Jun Miyagawa, a Japanese book dealer who specializes in North Korea publications, sells related paraphernalia Monday outside the St. Regis hotel where Kim Jong Un is staying. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)
The North Koreans have been making the most of their stay.

While some negotiators spent Monday huddled with their American counterparts trying to find some common ground, other members of the delegation were seen shopping at the nearby luxury malls, dressed in bright summer clothing.

The North Korean leader even took in some of the local sights himself, leaving the hotel after dinner to experience the panoramic view from a skyscraper's 57th-floor observation deck and stroll through the Gardens by the Bay, a man-made mountain inside a glass conservatory that boasts the world's largest indoor waterfall.

Even though the whole summit, from arrival to departure, will last less than 48 hours, local businesses are trying hard to cash in. The Singapore Straits Times tallied at least 16 restaurants that have Trump- or Kim-themed menu items, including Donald Duck Donburi, World Peace Bomb liqueur shots, and even a street food stand that is hawking an $11 fusion peace burger with a beef patty, cheese and kimchi.

Tan Wen Hui, or Singapore-based Common Good Company, poses with its latest product, Udder's Korean kimchi-flavoured ice cream. It was made for the summit between Trump and Kim. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)
And there is one wildcard figure who is also desperately trying to profit off the meeting.

Dennis Rodman, the former NBA star who holds the weird distinction of knowing both leaders — he has travelled to North Korea five times to visit his friend Kim, and was a two-time contestant on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice — is in Singapore.

The perennially broke athlete spent most of past week looking for somebody to underwrite the trip, finally landing the sponsorship of Potcoin, a cannabis cryptocurrency.

Rodman's agent told CNN that the ex-basketball player is "willing to offer his support" in the negotiations, although there's no indication that anyone wants his help.

He can, however, lay claim to at least preparing Kim for Trump's mercurial style.


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Viral video claims lives

A national hysteria in India over rumours of child kidnappers, spread by word of mouth and social media, has claimed at least nine lives.

The latest attack came this weekend in the north-eastern state of Assam, when a mob attacked two young men who had stopped to ask for directions. The men were beaten to death while others filmed the violence with their cellphones.

Indian media report that Abijeet Nath, a digital artist, and his friend Nilotpal Das, an audio engineer, were set upon by a crowd of about 200 people in a remote village in the Karbi Anglong district. At least 18 people have now been arrested in connection with the murders of the young men.

Locals later told police that they believed the men were the "kidnappers" portrayed in a video that has gone viral on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Indian students shout slogans during a protest march demanding the arrest and punishment of those involved in the killing of Abhijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam on June 10. (Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images)
The grainy "abduction" video circulating on social media shows two young men on a motorcycle pulling up alongside a group of children, grabbing one and then speeding away. An accompanying text message warns that kidnappers are at work in the area and that people should keep a close eye on their kids.

The problem is that the clip isn't real.

It's a re-creation taken from a child safety film produced in Pakistan, with all of the context and street-proofing tips edited out.

Local media have been reporting on the hoax, but that hasn't stopped angry citizens from dolling out vigilante justice on strangers they believe might be the kidnapping suspects.

In recent weeks there have been at least seven deaths linked to the video, including a newly arrived man in Bangalore who was beaten to death by a mob with cricket bats, a woman in Tamil Nadu who was lynched for giving candy to children, and the murder of a transgender woman in Hyderabad.

Demonstrators staged a silent protest Monday demanding police take action against members of the mob that beat travellers Abhijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das to death. (Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images)
Police have been trying to counteract the violence with public information campaigns about the "fake news," but rumours continue to spread faster than the truth.

WhatsApp is the most widely used messaging platform in India, with more than 200 million users. It has long been understood to have a dark side, with a string of lynchings dating back to 2015 having been blamed on rumours spread via its technology.

In April, amidst a rash of horrific crimes against young girls, authorities had to denounce a different WhatsApp rumour — that the government had passed a law allowing young women to kill their rapists with impunity.


A few words …

On Alex Ovechkin's epic Stanley Cup celebrations.


Quote of the moment

"It is our obligation to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people."

Pedro Sánchez, Spain's new prime minister, gives orders on Monday to allow the Aquarius, a rescue ship carrying some 600 migrants from North Africa, to dock and offload its human cargo. Earlier in the day, both Italy and Malta had turned the boat away.

Migrants prepare to board the Aquarius rescue ship, in an image released Monday. (Kenny Karpox/SOS Mediterranee/Associated Press)

What The National is reading

  • Canadian dollar slumps after Trump's anti-Trudeau Twitter tirade (CBC)
  • Hong Kong independence activist jailed for 6 years (Deutsche Welle)
  • Saskatoon Police dog attacks 6-year-old girl while tracking home invasion suspects (Star Phoenix)
  • Cryptocurrency hackers steal one-third of coins on South Korean exchange (CBC)
  • First monsoon rains pound Rohingya camps in Bangladesh (Al Jazeera)
  • Vietnamese take to streets to protest government land deals (Asia Times)
  • 13 dead, 31 wounded in Kabul attack (AFP)
  • Paris mayor launches 'rat map' to tackle rodent menace (Guardian)

Today in history

June 11, 1967: Saskatchewan farmer's Centennial project — what a relief!

The Saskatchewan Centennial Outhouse, at a crossroads leading to historic Fort Carlton, was the brainchild of a local farmer and some friends. They took the privy that had been serving generations out from behind the post office, gave it a new coat of paint, attached a hand-made Centennial emblem, and plopped it down on the side of the highway. Not a major tourist attraction, as reporter Mike McCourt notes, but perhaps a "major tourist necessity."

On the way to historic Fort Carlton, a roadside outhouse is a welcome sight for travellers. 1:21

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.