Swift N. Korea media reports on Kim's Singapore itinerary unusual, yet strategic

This picture taken on late June 11, 2018 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows Singapore Foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un walking at Marina Bay Sands hotel during a tour in Singapore.

North Korea’s state media have been delivering swift updates of Kim Jong-un’s itinerary in Singapore, which experts and officials have noted as “unusual,” yet “strategic.” 

The North’s Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday reported that Kim took a surprise overnight tour of Singapore and learned about “social and economic development, merely hours after the North Korean leader wrapped-up the tour.

The Rodong Sinmun, the North Korean ruling party’s official newspaper, also reported on the tour. 

Kim Jong Un goes on night stroll on Singapore's waterfront

  • The usually closely-guarded North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke away from summit preparations Monday for a night-time stroll on the Singapore waterfront, even posing for selfies with the city-state's foreign minister.
  • The picture posted online by Vivian Balakrishnan as the group toured a series of major sites, less than 12 hours ahead of Kim's meeting with US President Donald Trump, is the first such public image of the North's leader.
  • In his own country, his appearances are normally carefully managed, with any foreigners present having to go through hours-long security checks beforehand.
  • Kim was spotted walking inside, with his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong also part of the group.
  • "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," the KCNA report added.
  • At the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel, casino and convention centre, Kim visited the high-level SkyPark that links the three 55-storey towers of the complex.

Kim and US President Donald Trump held a summit in Singapore on Tuesday.

North Korea media on Monday reported Kim’s departure to Singapore, while detailing a ceremony attended by the North’s top officials ahead of the flight and his meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Kim embarked on a plane provided by China on Sunday.

The South’s Ministry of Unification noted the reports as “unusual,” citing Kim’s trip to China in March and early May, when the media reported the trips after Kim‘s return to Pyongyang. Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on both trips. The meeting in March was Kim’s first overseas diplomatic trip. 

Experts see the shift in the reporting pattern as a sign that Kim is confident of regime security and as a move to showcase the North as a “normal state,” capable of handling such diplomacy. 

The latest reports on Kim’s tour of Singapore indicates that Kim is expressing willingness to follow Singapore’s precedent of achieving economic prosperity within decades. 

“It’s a move to show North Korea’s willingness to open its economy to the international community, by stressing his image as an open-minded leader through the media,” Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul said. 

Kim in April had announced the completion of an end of the “byungjin” policy of pursuing the parallel development of nuclear weapons and economy, to instead focus entirely on achieving economic prosperity.