Singapore security, efficiency why it's a favourite for Trump-Kim meet

The central railway station in Pyongyang. North Korea went forward in time by 30 minutes, state media said late on Friday, as the country reset its clock to match its time zone with that of South Korea's, following last week's inter-Korea summit.
The central railway station in Pyongyang. North Korea went forward in time by 30 minutes, state media said late on Friday, as the country reset its clock to match its time zone with that of South Korea's, following last week's inter-Korea summit.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

S. Korean daily says summit likely after US leader's return from G-7 summit in Canada

The historic first meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will "most likely" be held in Singapore in mid-June, according to South Korea's largest newspaper.

Citing diplomatic sources in Washington, the Chosun Ilbo said Singapore is deemed the "strongest" candidate to host the summit though there is a possibility that Mr Trump, "who likes dramatic effects", could choose Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone at the last minute.

In its front page report yesterday, the Korean language daily said the meeting will most likely be held in the third week of June, after Mr Trump returns from the G-7 summit in Canada on June 8-9.

Mr Trump said on Friday that a date and venue had been set for his meeting with Mr Kim. "We'll be announcing it soon," he told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Texas, without elaborating.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the denuclearisation of North Korea at their meeting, which comes weeks after Mr Kim travelled to the truce village of Panmunjom on the North-South border to meet South Korean President Moon Jae In.

Speculation about the venue for the Trump-Kim meeting has been going on for weeks. Mr Kim reportedly wanted to meet in Pyongyang, but was persuaded to go to Mongolia, which has diplomatic ties with both the US and North Korea and is accessible by rail. This means he can get there in his bulletproof train.

Sweden and Switzerland both offered to host the summit, but were ruled out over concerns that North Korea's ageing state aircraft might not be able to cover the distance.

 

Indonesia and Thailand have also expressed willingness to play host.

Mr Trump himself took to Twitter to suggest Pamunjom, days after seeing the media blitz over the historic Moon-Kim summit on April 27.

South Korea has welcomed the idea, pointing to the symbolic meaning of the site, which was where the armistice that halted the 1950-1953 Korean War was signed by the US, China and the North. US officials, however, are said to favour Singapore, well known for its security.

Observers said it stands out for its neutrality, efficiency, high degree of public order and strong track record of hosting top-level meetings. This includes the landmark summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in 2015.

It also helps that both Washington and Pyongyang have missions in Singapore that can help plan the summit, said Dr Lim Tai Wei, adjunct research fellow at East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. "Singapore's neutrality is a draw for both. Public security is not a worry. The US is also favourable towards a location with prestige and glamour."

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, however, said on April 28 that the city state has not received any formal invitation or request to host the summit.

Seoul, meanwhile, is "strongly pushing" for Panmunjom as it wants to be involved in the process, Dr Park Jee Kwang of the Sejong Institute think-tank told The Sunday Times. "They don't want to be excluded, which is why they are trying to persuade North Korea to have the summit in Panmunjom."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 06, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore security, efficiency why it's a favourite for Trump-Kim meet'. Print Edition | Subscribe