Singapore chosen for neutrality, security, says US

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has signalled that he is open to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a key summit goal of the United States. US President Donald Trump tweeted that he hoped the summit would be a "very special moment" for world p
US President Donald Trump tweeted that he hoped the summit would be a "very special moment" for world peace.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has signalled that he is open to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a key summit goal of the United States.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has signalled that he is open to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a key summit goal of the United States. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Republic has ties with both nations and can ensure safety of both leaders: White House

Singapore was chosen as the site for next month's summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because of its neutrality and security, the White House's principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told journalists.

"Singapore has a relationship with both the United States and North Korea," Mr Shah told journalists on Thursday aboard Air Force One, which was taking Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence to Indiana for a public rally.

"They can be ensured - to ensure both the President's security and Kim Jong Un's security, as well as provide neutrality," he said, referring to the North Korean leader.

"Singaporeans have been gracious up until now, and also in the past," he said. "In fact, on a historical note, the first meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan took place in Singapore some years back."

As of now, the summit would be a one-day affair, he said. "Right now, we are still planning out a lot more of the details. So, I don't want to get ahead of anything more specific."

When asked what the President meant when he said on Thursday that the summit could be scuttled, Mr Shah said: "Well, we have over a month, right? We have a month and several days. And there are a number of things - provocative actions, for example, from North Korea would not be received well."

How others view the meeting

Singapore is an ideal site for the summit because Singapore historically has been an honest broker between East and West. Singapore has been a great friend to the US but also Singapore has carefully worked to be a friend to all, which has earned it trust in capitals around the world.

FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO SINGAPORE DAVID ADELMAN

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 Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

Singapore has pushed itself as a neutral actor in global affairs. The government there even has a history of putting together high-profile diplomatic events on short notice, hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping's historic 2015 meeting with his then counterpart from Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou... Singapore has the advantage of being a relatively short plane ride from North Korea, while still being a gleaming, hyper-modern metropolis that offers top-class facilities.

EXCERPT FROM "TRUMP AND KIM WILL MEET IN SINGAPORE. HERE'S WHY", published in The Washington Post.

"I don't want to offer hypotheticals. All I will say is that this meeting has been agreed to, but obviously it could be halted for any number of reasons."

When asked about expectations of the summit, he said: "Our policy is to ensure the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. And that is what (the President) is going to be seeking."

"I am not going to get ahead of the negotiations, but that is our… stated goal. It has long been a US policy in this administration, and it will continue to be. And we will see what happens going forward between now and June 12."

Separately, Ms Victoria Coates, senior director for international negotiations at the National Security Council, told journalists that Singapore was convenient, and "it is a media hub for Asia".

On Thursday night, Mr Trump confirmed in a tweet that the summit with Mr Kim would take place in Singapore on June 12. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for world peace!" he had said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the historic meeting was a significant step on the path to peace. In a Twitter reply to Mr Trump, he added: "May it lead to a successful outcome."

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement on Thursday night: "We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean peninsula."

Analysts were sanguine about the choice of Singapore. Mr Ernie Bower, chief executive of consultancy BowerGroupAsia, said: "Singapore is the ideal spot for the Trump-Kim summit because it underlines Asean's centrality at the core of developing Indo-Pacific architecture to promote peace and security."

A Japanese newspaper yesterday 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore chosen for neutrality, security, says US'. Print Edition | Subscribe