Trump-Kim Singapore summit

PM hopes summit will get things moving in positive direction

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second right) visited the international media centre at the F1 Pit Building on June 10, 2018. He said the bill for hosting the historic Trump-Kim summit will come up to about $20 million.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second right) visited the international media centre at the F1 Pit Building on June 10, 2018. He said the bill for hosting the historic Trump-Kim summit will come up to about $20 million.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

He notes that path to denuclearisation is long process, but historic meeting can be first step

The historic Trump-Kim summit could set developments on the Korean peninsula on a constructive path, marking a U-turn in a situation that has been heading in the wrong direction, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

This, in turn, affects the security of not just Asia, but also the whole world, he said, adding that he hopes tomorrow's meeting - the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader - will eventually lead to denuclearisation.

 

"That's a long process, but this is a first step. And if the first step happens in Singapore, well, we are happy to be associated with it."

Mr Lee was speaking to Singapore media during a visit to the international media centre at the F1 Pit Building.

He noted that North Korea and South Korea have been at war since 1950. The North invaded the South on June 25 that year, and today, both sides remain technically at war.

Over the past three decades or so, North Korea has embarked on a nuclear weapons programme. Successive US presidents, other world leaders and the United Nations have tried to pressure or cajole the country into scrapping it but with little success.

TAKING A FIRST STEP

You cannot wipe that all away with one meeting. What you can hope to do is to start things moving in a positive direction.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, referring to mistrust and misunderstanding built up over the years.

Mr Lee said yesterday there have been numerous discussions and agreements that were broken. Mistrust and misunderstanding have built up over the years as a result.

"So you cannot wipe that all away with one meeting," he said. "What you can hope to do is to start things moving in a positive direction."

On what this means for Asean, including Singapore, he said: "Indirectly, an unstable or tense North-east Asia is not good for us. So we hope that this will lead to stability and peace in North-east Asia, and that indirectly will be to our benefit."

Singapore could also conceivably see its trade with North Korea grow in the long term if the geopolitical situation improves.

Mr Lee noted that Singapore's trade with North Korea has substantially diminished to a "negligible level" of $700,000 last year - a 96 per cent drop from 2016.

Singapore was North Korea's seventh-largest trading partner last year, before it suspended all trade with Pyongyang last November in line with toughened sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Statistics on trade between both sides are not readily available.

"Of course if there's an agreement, if there's progress, the sanctions are lifted, I expect our trade will grow," said Mr Lee. "But it will take some time."

Mr Lee met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, yesterday evening, and will meet US President Donald Trump today.

 
 

Asked what he intended to discuss with them, Mr Lee replied: "I think they will be focused on their bilateral meeting. My meeting with them is a courtesy call, and I will of course hear what's on their minds, and I will tell them that they have our full support to make this a successful meeting."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2018, with the headline 'PM hopes summit will get things moving in positive direction'. Print Edition | Subscribe