US President Donald Trump on Thursday, May 10, broke the news himself on Twitter. He announced the venue and date for his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and it is Singapore and June 12, respectively. Why was the Asian city-state picked for the summit and not some high-profile venue in the West or even in the Korean Peninsula?
Here are some possible reasons:
- First, Singapore is one of those places that offer a first-grade security environment – a must for an event which will feature the American president.
- Second, Singapore is one of those countries that have links with both the US and North Korea. While it houses a North Korean embassy, it also has considerable security ties with Washington. The American Navy stations some of its combat vessels at the Changi naval base.
- Third, holding the summit in Singapore also sends a message of neutrality. Singapore is far away from the Koreas, China and Japan and makes it convenient for the US to hold talks with Kim at a place which is not close to his or their zone and not let Trump get eclipsed by the ‘Far East phenomenon’.
- Fourth, Singapore is known to be a quick organiser. In the past, it earned a good name for successfully holding top-level meetings at a short notice. For instance, in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping chose Singapore for his historic talks with his the then Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou. That meeting was the first between Beijing and Taipei since the Chinese civil war ended several decades earlier and it was held secretly but effectively. The Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore also holds the Shangri-La Dialogue or Asia Security Summit featuring defence professionals from several countries every year.
- Fifth, Singapore is the chair of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations or Asean this year and holding a key summit there could send a positive signal to the regional grouping – about possible future engagements – economic, political and military.
- Finally, the distance from Pyongyang and Singapore is around 5,000 kilometres which is much lesser than that with any European venue. And given the fact that Kim Jong-un is not known to be a mobile leader (he has used a train, car and plane for his visits to China and South Korea recently), travelling to Singapore is comparatively less hectic for the isolationist leader. There were even talks that Kim doesn’t have an aeroplane capable of taking him to far-off places. However, his latest visit to Dalian in China, which is around 530 kilometres from Pyongyang, in a plane settled the doubts that the North Korean leader is completely crippled in terms of flying.