Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, center, tours the Esplanade in Singapore on Monday. (Photographer: Seong Joon/Bloomberg)

Kim Jong Un Surprises Crowds in Singapore With Late-Night Tour

(Bloomberg) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled and waved to a cheering crowd during a surprise late-night tour of Singapore on the eve of his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

About 100 reporters and Singapore residents shouted his name and took pictures with phones as Kim visited Marina Bay Sands resort, famed for its rooftop infinity pool overlooking the city. He later strolled along the harbor at the heart of the central business district with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who tweeted out a selfie with Kim.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Kim had “learned about the social and economic development” of Singapore during the roughly two-hour jaunt around town.

“Enjoying a nocturnal bird’s-eye view of the city on the observation platform of the Marina Bay Sands building, he said Singapore is clean and beautiful and every building is stylish as he heard of in the past, adding he is going to learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future.”

It was Kim’s only foray on Monday outside of the St. Regis hotel, where he’s been staying since his arrival a day earlier. He was accompanied by his sister Kim Yo Jong and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. He left at 9 p.m. and arrived back at the hotel around 11:20 p.m.

The tour demonstrated Kim’s confidence ahead of the meeting with Trump, set to begin at 9 a.m. local time, or 9 p.m. Monday in Washington. There were signs of behind-the-scene tensions as negotiators from both sides huddled for long hours Monday and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that the U.S. planned to keep sanctions in place until North Korea eliminates its nuclear weapons capability.

The trip marked a rare outing in a modern metropolis for a reclusive leader who presides over one of the world’s poorest countries. Kim has sought to overhaul his image this year in a bid to ease international sanctions imposed after he tested nuclear bombs and long-range ballistic missiles.

The trip to Singapore -- almost 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) south of Pyongyang -- represents Kim’s farthest trip from home since taking power after his father’s death in 2011. The city-state of 5.5 million serves as neutral turf for both sides, since it has security partnerships with the U.S., a North Korean embassy and strong ties with China.

Trump had earlier Monday ventured out to thank Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for hosting the meeting. “We’ve got very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely,” Trump told Lee.

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