Trump-Kim summit shows Singapore is trusted as an honest moderator: Vivian Balakrishnan

Hosting the summit is Republic's contribution to world peace, he says

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan told the media that hosting the summit was Singapore's contribution to world peace. PHOTO: ST FILE

Next week's US-North Korea summit shows that Singapore enjoys trust and confidence as an honest and neutral moderator and host, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan has said.

He was speaking on Tuesday at the end of a one-day working visit to Washington, where he met Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The Foreign Minister will be in Pyongyang today at the invitation of his North Korean counterpart, Mr Ri Yong Ho.

Before leaving the US capital, Dr Balakrishnan told Singapore media that hosting the summit was "our contribution to world peace".

"I am confident we will do our best as hosts. I tell both the North Koreans and the Americans, we are there to serve tea and coffee," he quipped.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose official title is Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, are scheduled to meet at the Capella hotel on Sentosa at 9am on June 12, in what is being touted as potentially one of the most significant geopolitical developments since the end of the Cold War.

"The fact that the summit is even occurring is significant in its own way," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"For the President of the United States to sit with the leader of North Korea across the table and to have all the issues laid out for them to have a frank discussion is a significant step.

"Obviously, what all of us are hoping for is it would lead to a de-escalation of tension, raise the prospects of peace, and for the sake of the North Koreans themselves improve the prospects for economic development," he said.

"For North Korea, they only need to look at China and at South-east Asia to see that peace is an essential prerequisite for prosperity, so let's hope for the best but not have undue expectations," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"I don't think one meeting next week in Singapore can certainly unlock the entire situation on the Korean peninsula, (but) if you can make a positive step, it will be significant in its own right," he added.

The Foreign Minister also disclosed that it was the US that approached Singapore first, followed by North Korea, to host the summit. The first prerequisite for both sides was security, followed by the availability of a venue and a setting that would send the appropriate signal.

"We have been able to have good discussions separately with both; I think it is very important that we enjoy the trust and confidence of both parties, this ability to be an honest neutral moderator and host was absolutely crucial," he said.

Mr Pompeo and Mr Bolton had thanked Singapore and Singaporeans, Dr Balakrishnan said. Separately on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted: "We thank our great Singaporean hosts for their hospitality."

Dr Balakrishnan's talks with US officials went beyond the upcoming summit to cover US-Singapore relations as well as trade issues.

On trade, he said he voiced Singapore's concern over the prospect of trade wars.

The Trump administration, citing national security and unfair trade barriers, has imposed tariffs on a range of imports from several countries which, in turn, have threatened to retaliate.

"From Singapore's perspective, we hope it will not be a full-blown trade war because it will inevitably affect us," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"Singapore is a place where our trade is three times our GDP, and any disruption to world trade will be a problem for us; I made that point as strongly as I could."

He added: "We think even when there are disputes, we prefer they be resolved through multilateral institutions and multilateral processes. We are not in favour of unilateral measures, (and) we certainly don't want trade wars."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2018, with the headline Trump-Kim summit shows Singapore is trusted as an honest moderator: Vivian Balakrishnan . Subscribe