Chairman Kim and I have dinner Wednesday night in Hanoi at the Metropole Hotel where outside lights give the place a golden look I like at night. It’s a decent five-star hotel, with rooms starting at about three hundred thirty, but not a Trump-caliber place. That’s okay, though. I think Chairman Kim will be comfortable negotiating here. It’s an honor to be with him again. Our first summit was a great success and this one will be even better. We have a very special relationship.
“I hope you’re hungry, Chairman Kim,” I tell him as we’re each seated with two staff members and an interpreter.
“I’m always hungry, President Trump, but would’ve preferred lots of Vietnamese food rather than what you’ve dictated,” he says.
“Sorry about the late changes, but I had to keep it light after eating a five course meal while working with Prime Minister Nguyen this afternoon. Otherwise, we’d see who can knock down the most chow.”
Kim looks confused during the translation but smiles after further explanation.
“I’m confident I can out-eat the great American president.”
“You obviously enjoy food, Chairman Kim.”
“I doubt I spend any more time in the kitchen than you, President Trump.”
Waiters bring in our chilled shrimp cocktails spiced with fresh lemon and herbs, diced avocado, and thousand island dressing. Skillfully using chopsticks, Kim demolishes his shrimp faster than anyone. If I’d been home watching sports or Fox News, I’d have grabbed my shrimp instead of spearing one at a time with a fork.
“The next course is one of my favorites, Chairman Kim. Tender marinated sirloin grilled with sauce. And, in your honor, kimchi fermented inside a pear. Frankly, I think salty cabbage and Korean radishes are hard on the stomach but they beat the alternative.”
Chairman Kim, who’s already about finished his second shrimp cocktail, puts down his chopsticks. “And what might that alternative be?”
“Starvation,” I say, “but nothing personal.”
With his right hand Kim picks up the chopsticks and points them at me. “That judgmental Yankee imperialism killed two million Koreans and a generation later slaughtered two million Vietnamese, many right here in Hanoi where your B-52 bombers indiscriminately blew people up.”
“I’m sorry, Chairman Kim. What I’m really saying is that your country can soon be unbelievably wealthy. And we’ll help you. Imagine all those malnourished citizens who could soon be eating sirloin.”
Kim ignores me and starts in on his steak, using knife and fork like a pro. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo grins at me while one of Kim’s diplomats frowns. Chewing hard and fast Kim devours his sirloin and orders another. I honestly believe I could’ve kept up if I hadn’t eaten such a big lunch. But tonight I barely finish my entrée.
“I’m saving room for dessert, Chairman Kim,” I say. “Hot runny centered chocolate cake with chocolate crumble and fresh berries and vanilla ice cream.”
I’ve never seen anyone eat as fast as Kim Jong Un, not even the man himself during our first incredible summit. He downs his dessert and snaps his fingers for another and finishes that when I’m half through my first. After burping into a napkin, he stands, nods at this aides, and walks away.
“Chairman Kim, there’s still dried persimmon and honey punch.”
He spins and in English says, “Send it to my room.”
“We sure will. See you at the summit tomorrow.”