BEIJING - The United States and North Korea summit presents an opportunity not just for a breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula, but also for Singapore to showcase its capabilities to the world, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
While there would be inconveniences to Singaporeans, he said he knew from feedback that Singaporeans were proud that the country was trusted to host the event and added that he was sure Singaporeans "will put forward our best face to the world."
Dr Balakrishnan, who spoke to Singapore media on Saturday (June 9) in Beijing en-route to Singapore after a five-day trip to Washington and Pyongyang, noted that some have called the summit an "incredible branding opportunity" for the Republic.
He said: "This is also an opportunity when there is enormous global attention on Singapore as the host, and on Singaporeans and our capabilities, for us to make a difference."
Some 3,000 journalists are expected to be in Singapore to cover the historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week.
Dr Balakrishnan said the summit was one of Singapore's "most significant security operations" and a "very complex operation" that goes beyond just serving coffee and tea. Singapore agencies ranging from the Foreign Ministry, Home Team and Singapore Armed Forces have been pressed into service.
"This is our contribution to world peace and this is also our opportunity to show an aspect of Singapore that we sometimes take for granted - our security, efficiency, unity of purpose, ability to get things done, to plan in detail and also to react to contingencies and changes in plan," he added.
The Republic has played host to historic summits before, including in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping met Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, the first time leaders from both sides met since Taiwan's separation from the mainland in 1949.
The coming meeting is also an affirmation of Singapore's neutrality, and of its 53 years of "independent, principled, fair and honest diplomacy"," said Dr Balakrishnan.
Singapore has diplomatic ties with both North Korea and the US.
The North Koreans recognised Singapore as an independent country in 1967, and has had an embassy in the country since the 1970s.With the US, Singapore also has built a relationship of decades of trust and reliability over decades.
Dr Balakrishnan said the fact that both sides asked Singapore to host the meeting speaks to its track record, open communication with both sides, discreetness, and trustworthiness, and was an "enormous affirmation" of Singapore's value to the world.
"Sometimes people ask us why we are so principled, why so consistent, why we sometimes refuse to bend with the seasonal wind. This is the point - people know know we won't be bought, intimidated, will maintain a steady principled course. We don't play games, we don't engage in polemics," he said.
The Foreign Minister was also asked about the costs of hosting the summit. He said he did not have specific figures, but said that while Singapore was extending hospitality to the North Koreans, as it would for any state visit, they would have to pay some of their own costs.
"I give you this assurance, we will make sure every dollar is spent appropriately, and ultimately this is our contribution to world peace, our contribution and investment in our bilateral relations with both the US and DPRK," he said, referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's formal name.
Dr Balakrishnan said there would also be opportunities for Singapore businessmen and enterprises if peace is achieved on the Korean Peninsula, and sanctions on North Korea reversed.
"But these are incidentals. Let's focus on the important thing, which is for Singapore to be a safe, conducive venue, and let the leaders on two sides meet, and hopefully achieve a breakthrough, and then we can all celebrate," he said.