Donald Trump to meet Kim Jong Un in Singapore: What you need to know about the historic summit

White House spokesman Raj Shah said Singapore was chosen because it could ensure the security of both leaders and provide neutrality. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - US President Donald Trump will meet North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12 for a historic meeting.

Rumours had been swirling that the two leaders were picking Singapore as the location for the occasion, but the confirmation only came on Thursday night (May 10), when Mr Trump tweeted about it.

Here's what you need to know about the upcoming summit.

What did the leaders say about it?

The location was revealed after a shortlist was whittled down in recent weeks, leaving just two possibilities: Singapore and the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula.

On Wednesday (May 9), Mr Trump told reporters the summit would not be held in the DMZ.

He had written in a tweet on April 30: "Numerous countries are being considered for the peace, but would Peace House/Freedom House, on the Border of North and South Korea, be a more representative, important and lasting site than a third party country? Just asking!"

A day before the announcement of the summit location, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured the release of three American prisoners in the communist nation during his one-day trip there.

Mr Trump said on their arrival that he believed Mr Kim wanted to bring North Korea "into the real world" and had high hopes for their planned meeting, which would be the first between a serving US president and a North Korean leader.

"I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful," Mr Trump said. "My proudest achievement will be - this is part of it - when we denuclearise that entire peninsula."

What are experts saying about the choice of Singapore?

Experts said "neutrality" was the keyword behind the venue choice, as it could offer a comfortable environment for the summit without both leaders stepping on each other's "home turf".

"Singapore is the best alternative option for both nations because it has maintained close diplomatic ties to the US and has also established relations with North Korea with a North Korean embassy on its soil," Dr Shin Beom Chul, a senior fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, said.

Mr Shin said the North would have preferred other countries that were on the shortlist such as China, Russia, and Mongolia, but the US would have minded their positions as global rivals or as an unfamiliar third party.

Malaysia was likely ruled out due to the allegations that Mr Kim had ordered the murder of his half brother there, while Indonesia lacks the necessary infrastructure, according to the Seoul-based expert.

"The distance is also an attractive feature for Kim Jong Un, as Singapore lies 4,700km away from North Korea," he added.

Mr Will Saetren, research associate at the Institute for China-America Studies, said: "The DMZ already had a historic summit. The optics a second time round would not have been so punchy. And President Trump going there would play into North Korea's propaganda machine - that the American President is coming to us. Singapore is a logical choice."

What more did the leaders say about the venue?

In his tweet on Thursday night, Mr Trump wrote: "The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for world peace!"

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong replied: "The meeting between US President @realDonaldTrump & North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is a significant step on the path to peace. May it lead to a successful outcome."

Mr Lee, in a telephone call with Mr Trump on Friday (May 11), said Singapore is honoured to host the "a historic and momentous event" and "will do our best to facilitate a smooth and successful meeting".

North Korea has yet to publicly comment on the matter.

How will they arrive here and where will they land?

Experts pointed out that both Mr Kim and Mr Trump are likely to land at Paya Lebar Air Base.

Mr Trump will arrive on Air Force One, the US President's plane, while Mr Kim may fly here on his Soviet-made long range craft, the Ilyushin-62, which he took to Dalian, China.

The decision on where the two leaders will land requires careful consideration and coordination, experts said.

Dr Bilveer Singh, senior adjunct fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said flights at Changi Airport could be disrupted if the air space needs to be closed temporarily to accommodate the high-level flights.

"It is also important to note that we are dealing with two leaders and states that are paranoid about security," he said.

"The reason the summit is being held here in the first place is partly because they are confident that Singapore can and will offer 101 per cent security. If this is the key consideration, landing at Paya Lebar is the best option."

Where in Singapore will the talks be held?

Experts flagged three possible locations in Singapore for the summit: The Shangri-La Hotel, Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa.

Shangri-La Hotel, which hosts the annual high-level Shangri-La security dialogue is said to be the top contender with its know-how in terms of logistics and security.

MBS is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp, whose chairman and chief executive is Mr Sheldon Adelson, one of Mr Trump's major donors.

Sentosa could be an option for its relative privacy and seclusion, but hotels there may not be able to host large entourages.

Could there be a surprise guest?

A Japanese newspaper on Friday raised the possibility of Chinese President Xi Jinping also travelling to Singapore on June 12.

The Mainichi Shimbun's Washington-based correspondent cited US diplomatic sources as saying there was a chance that Mr Xi may meet Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Singapore.

The Mainichi quoted a senior international negotiator with the National Security Council as telling reporters that "there is a possibility" the leader of a third country may take part.

SOURCE: The Korea Herald

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