SINGAPORE’S neutrality and strong security are two of the main reasons why it has been chosen as the venue for the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12.
“Singapore has a relationship with both the United States and North Korea,” the White House’s principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.
“They [Singapore] can ensure both the president’s security and Kim Jong-un’s security, as well as provide neutrality,” Shah said.
“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.”
In 2015, the city-state played host to a historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou.
In his Twitter message, President Trump said “the highly appreciated meeting between Kim Jong-un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace,” but did not give the reasons why they chose the Southeast Asian country.
Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said it was pleased to host the meeting. “We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula,” a ministry statement said.
The location for the summit has been speculated on for weeks. Many places, including Bangkok and the demilitarised zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korean, were mentioned as potential locations.
“The DMZ already had a historic summit. The optics a second time round would not have been so punchy. And President Trump going there would play into North Korea’s propaganda machine – that the American president is coming to us,” said Will Saetren, research associate at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington DC.
“Singapore is a logical choice, it avoids those problems. It has diplomatic relations with North Korea and the US also has a big embassy there. And it’s a nice place, the optics will be good.”
Other experts and observers gave more reasons to explain why the country is suitable. The city-state is now holding the chairmanship of Asean. The Asean Regional Forum (ARF) is the only forum, besides the United Nations, where the US and North Korea sit together annually. Pyongyang was a member of the ARF since 2000 when Thailand chaired Asean. Asean has played a significant role in attempts to solve problems in the Korea Peninsula since then.
As the Asean chair, Singapore could take credit that it could bring the regional grouping to work out the tough security challenge in the region and the world and could make Asean sit at the core of the security architecture in the Indo-Pacific.
Geographically, Singapore is located in the Southeast Asia region connecting the Pacific and Indian oceans, known in global strategic terms as “Indo-Pacific”. Having Singapore as the location of the summit would be important symbolically for Asean centrality in the regional security arrangement.
Asean’s biggest economy, Singapore has always been a business hub and could have emerged as the favourite choice for businessman-turned-politician Trump. The Singapore could also be an inspiration for Kim if he is looking for a development model that embraces an open economy but imposes restrictions in the political arena.
by Supalak Ganjanakhundee, The Nation(Thailand)
May 12, 2018