SINGAPORE - US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday (May 10) he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, confirming speculation that had been swirling among international media for days.
"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th," Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday (May 10).
"We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!"
The event will be the first meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader. They are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and testing programme, which has deepened long-seated tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed late on Thursday that the Republic will host the event.
"Singapore is pleased to host the meeting between President of the United States Donald J Trump and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim Jong Un on 12 June 2018," MFA said in a statement.
"We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula."
Replying to Mr Trump's tweet on Friday morning, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the summit is a "significant step on the path to peace".
"May it lead to a successful outcome," he added.
Singapore, touted for its neutrality, high degree of public order and track record in hosting high-level meetings, was among a list of venues floated for the summit, which would be the first between leaders of the US and the North.
The White House confirmed on Friday that the Republic was chosen because it could ensure the security of both leaders and provide neutrality.
In recent weeks, the shortlist was whittled down to Singapore, and the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula. But on Wednesday, Mr Trump told reporters that the summit would not be held in the DMZ.
Mr Trump’s announcement came just hours after three Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea arrived at a US military base outside Washington, having been brought back by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after their release by Mr Kim.
Mr Trump, who had cautioned that he was prepared to walk away from the summit if progress was not being made and that any deal would have to include North Korea's denuclearisation, 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.
“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.”
Visiting US 7th Fleet commander Vice-Admiral Phillip Sawyer had told Singapore media in an interview on Thursday that “the region and the world is cautiously optimistic and hopeful of what will come out of this (the meeting)”.
Describing the developments as “historic”, he made the comments when asked how recent developments involving North Korea could impact the 7th Fleet’s operations.
“I think that our government leaders between our two countries are going to be meeting very shortly and I look forward to what comes out of that,” he added.
Experts The Straits Times spoke to weighed in on the likelihood and merits of three possible locations in the Republic.
A hospitality and events consultant who did not wish to be named, said that Shangri-La Hotel, which hosts the annual high-level Shangri-La security dialogue is the top contender. “Logistically and security-wise, Shangri-La knows the drill....especially since they also host the Shangri-La dialogue.”
Mr Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group, said the hotel would have security preparations in place for the Shangri-la Dialogue taking place in early June, before the Trump-Kim summit reportedly taking place in mid-June.
“That’s probably the ideal location, so they don’t have to replan and redeploy the security assets,” he added.
Its location, away from the main Orchard Road belt, and within a residential area, also makes the Shangri-La hotel an ideal venue for the summit, experts said.
MARINA BAY SANDS
MBS has been flagged as a venue for the summit, given that one of President Trump’s major donors, Mr Sheldon Adelson, is chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp which owns the Singapore integrated resort.
Mr Koh, however, does not think it is a suitable venue for the meeting. “It is out of the question,” he said, adding that MBS is too close to the city, so getting to and from the venue will be a hassle for officials and others attending the meeting.
The facility’s sprawling area also makes it very challenging for security personnel, he added.
Mr Koh said: “There are too many ways to access the location and I do not think that authorities will want to close off the area.”
The island, with its relaxing surroundings, could be an attractive option, said experts. From the security perspective, there are also suitable sites on the island which are secluded and private, said Mr Koh.
But hotels on Sentosa may not be able to host large entourages, said the hospitality consultant.
Additional reporting by Aw Cheng Wei, Kimberley Chia and Lee Wen-Yi