How We Went From "Little Rocket Man" To A Trump–Kim Summit In 23 Easy Steps

It's been a real roller coaster of emotions between the two leaders.

President Donald Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday to sit down with Kim Jong Un in the first face-to-face meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

As Trump is always keen to point out, the North Korean crisis he's there to solve didn't start under his watch. North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 after years of negotiations failed to convince the isolated country to abandon its program. Kim has been in power since 2011, taking command after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. The younger Kim is part of the third generation of the Kim family to rule North Korea. The threat North Korea has posed to the US has only grown since then as international sanctions have failed to stop it from continuing to develop its nukes and methods of delivery.

As you may recall, Kim and Trump's relationship has had some ups and downs, to say the least.

With that in mind, let's go back to the start and see just how we went from a war of words and worries of nuclear war to the historic summit that's about to begin.

Nov. 10, 2016 — Then-President Barack Obama reportedly warns President-elect Trump during their post-election Oval Office meeting that North Korea will be the biggest national security challenge he faces as president.

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Obama reportedly would later say that the warning had caused Trump to "sit up and take notice." A few weeks before taking office, Trump would respond via tweet to a warning in Kim's annual New Year's address. He said that North Korea developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that would reach the US "won't happen."

Feb. 10, 2017 — Park Geun-hye, then-president of South Korea, whose hardline views on unification of the Koreas had enraged North Korea, is removed from office.

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The case against Park was only tangentially related to North Korea — the discovery that an outside adviser had marked up the speech about unification really set the snowball that led to her impeachment rolling. But her ouster removes a person whom North Korea attacked endlessly and sets up current President Moon Jae-In to take office in her place.

Feb. 12, 2017 — North Korea launches a missile test during Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's first meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.

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The test forces Abe and Trump to hold an impromptu national security meeting in the dining room at the Florida resort. Two days earlier, the two had urged North Korea “to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and not to take any further provocative actions.”

Feb. 14, 2017 — Kim Jong Nam, Kim's older brother, is assassinated in Malaysia.

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Belief that the elder Kim died at the hands of a nerve agent administered by a North Korean operation further underlines to observers just how far Kim is willing to go to consolidate his power.

April 14, 2017 — The US announces that its policy toward North Korea will consist of "maximum pressure and engagement" to get the country to agree to "denuclearization," the complete dismantling of its nuclear program.

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On paper, the strategy doesn't seem too far removed from the Obama administration's policy. At this point, North Korea has attempted at least four missile launches since Trump has taken office — three of the launches were successful.

An April 4 missile test had prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to say in a testy statement that the US is "done talking about North Korea." North Korea would set off two more missile launches in April alone.

June 19, 2017 — Otto Warmbier, an American college student, dies soon after his release from North Korea.

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Warmbier had spent 17 months in a North Korean prison for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster while on tour in the communist country. The 22-year-old slipped into a coma while in custody. North Korea released him to the US on June 13, allowing him to be flown out in a medical evacuation. Six days later, he died. His death spurred the US State Department to ban all tourism in North Korea by US citizens.

July 4, 2017 — North Korea tests its first successful ICBM, putting more of the world in its crosshairs than ever before.

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The success of the new Hwasong-15 missile test greatly expands the reach of North Korea's missile arsenal. Kim would later taunt Trump through the North Korean state media, calling the test a Fourth of July "gift." Just three weeks later, North Korea tests another ICBM, this one appearing capable of reaching the US West Coast or even farther.

Aug. 8, 2017 — Trump warns North Korea in off-the-cuff remarks that "any more threats" against the US will be met "with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Trump: North Korea "best not make any more threats" to the US or they will be met "with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Trump's threat comes just hours after the Washington Post cited a US military assessment that said North Korea had succeeded in miniaturizing its nuclear warheads to be able to fit on its missile arsenal. North Korea would respond the next day by threatening Guam, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean. A further threat that "all options are on the table" from Trump later that month would see a renewed threat against the island.

Sept. 3, 2017 — North Korea conducts its sixth nuclear test, prompting celebration in Pyongyang.

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The Kim regime will soon claim that North Korea tested its first hydrogen bomb during its sixth nuclear launch. The United Nations Security Council responds with the third resolution, strengthening sanctions against North Korea in 2017.

Sept. 15, 2017 — North Korea shoots a mid-range missile over Japan, setting off a national alert and worrying everyone.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

Sept. 19, 2017 — Trump goes to the UN General Assembly and calls Kim "Rocket Man" on the world stage.

Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

In response, North Korea refers to Trump in an official statement as a "dotard."

Sept. 23, 2017 — North Korea says that a Trump tweet warning "Little Rocket Man" that his country "won't be around much longer" is a declaration of war.

Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!

Days earlier, ahead of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho speaking at the UN, US bombers flew near North Korea's east coast. After Ri's UN speech lambasted the US, Trump sent his tweet. Ri in return said that since the US "declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures including the right to shoot down the United States’ strategic bombers even when they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country."

Oct. 1, 2017 — Trump tells Tillerson on Twitter that he's "wasting [his] time" in negotiating with Kim and North Korea.

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"Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" Trump followed up ominously. But by November, North Korea will test another ICBM, one it claims can reach anywhere in the United States.

Jan. 3, 2018 — Kim in his New Year's address warns the US that the "nuclear button" is always on his desk. Trump responds by tweeting that his button is "bigger."

Jung Yeon-je / AFP / Getty Images

Jan. 9, 2018 — In the first signs of a shift, the Koreas announce that North Korea will attend the upcoming Winter Olympics hosted in South Korea.

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North and South Korea eventually walk into the Olympics opening ceremonies together while Kim's sister sits in the stands watching. US Vice President Mike Pence, who is there leading the US delegation, pointedly ignores her.

March 8, 2018 — South Korea brings word that Kim would like to one day meet with Trump. Trump accepts on the spot, sending out the South Koreans to announce it.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Moon's top security adviser Chung Eui-yong and his colleague met with Kim the previous week. They were the highest level South Koreans to meet with the leader since he took office. They'd come to Washington to brief a small number of staffers but Trump reportedly invited to them to the Oval Office and shocked everyone by accepting Kim's offer.

North Korea has been angling for a meeting with a US president for years as a way to show that the two governments are on par with each other. Until now, the US has always held out the meeting as a reward for good behavior from Pyongyang.

Apr. 27, 2018 — Kim and Moon meet face-to-face along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the first meeting between leaders of the two Koreas in years.

Pool New / Reuters

Kim makes history during the meeting by becoming the first North Korean leader to step into South Korean territory since the Korean War broke out in 1950. Kim's charm offensive dazzles the South Koreans.

April 29, 2018 — John Bolton, Trump's new national security adviser, rattles North Korea by bringing up the "Libya model" during a television appearance.

Joe Skipper / Reuters

Bolton's comparison ruffles all the wrong feathers, given that Libya's leader was toppled less than a decade after turning over all of its nuclear material in 2003 in exchange for relief from international pariah status.

May 10, 2018 — Trump welcomes three US detainees released from North Korea as they arrive back in the United States.

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Trump, meeting the returnees at the airport early in the morning, says, "I want to thank Kim Jong Un. I think he wants to do something and bring that country into the real world.”

Later that day, after weeks of dramatic buildup, Trump announces that the summit will take place in Singapore on June 12. But it's still not clear that North Korea has actually agreed to total denuclearization as the Trump administration claims it has.

May 24, 2018 — North Korea demolishes its nuclear test site — or at least it says it did.

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In front of select members of the international media, North Korea detonates its nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri. But analysis a week later says that the seismic activity from the detonation doesn't match what should be expected if the whole outpost, including its underground testing facilities, was actually destroyed.

May 24, 2018 — The same day as the detonation, Trump abruptly announces that he's canceling the summit, but leaves the door open to calling it back on.

J. David Ake / AP

In a public letter addressed to Kim, Trump says, “I was very much looking forward to being there with you" but canceled due to belligerent statements from Pyongyang. The president also warns that the US’s nuclear capabilities are “so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” White House officials defend the letter, saying that the North Koreans had not turned up for earlier logistics meetings with US officials in Singapore.

The very next day, he holds out the possibility that the meeting is back on after a North Korean statement that the president calls "very nice." North Korea over the next few days presents itself as the aggrieved party, holding an impromptu second meeting between Moon and Kim.

June 1, 2018 — Trump meets with North Korea former spymaster Kim Yong Chol at the White House and declares that the summit is back on.

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"I didn't cancel the meeting — I canceled it in response to a very tough statement," Trump told reporters standing outside the White House. "And I think we're over that, totally over that, and now we're going to deal and we're going to really start a process."

The North Korean adviser also provides a new letter to Trump from Kim, which the president praises before acknowledging he hasn't opened it yet.

June 11, 2018 — Trump arrives in Singapore a day early, fresh from a less-than-fruitful round of negotiations with allies.

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Trump is expected to meet with Kim one-on-one for up to two hours, according to the White House. But what will come out of that meeting is anyone's guess. What's less likely: any agreement from North Korea that sets it up for immediate denuclearization as Trump first promised would be the goal.