Singapore to host Trump-Kim summit?

PETALING JAYA: Singapore is one of two countries being considered to host the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reports say.

South Korean daily Joong-Ang Ilbo said the other possible host country is Mongolia.

The report said Singapore was favoured by Washington for its modern infrastructure and security record.

The summit is planned for early June.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s The Straits Times quoted an academic as saying the city-state would be an ideal host “because of our position as a safe and secure country” with good diplomatic relations with other countries.

Graham Ong-Webb, from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Singapore also did not take sides on external issues and had served as an honest broker before to facilitate dialogues between parties.

It would not be the first time Singapore has hosted such an important meeting. In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou flew to Singapore for their first meeting.

However, there is a snag.

Daniel Russel, a former US diplomat who is now vice-president for international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said Kim was unlikely to travel so far for the meeting.

“I think there are certain amounts of risks for a totalitarian leader like Kim Jong Un to leave a country for an extended period of time, and I’m not so sure I want to take one of North Korea’s airplanes as far away as Singapore,” he told ST in Seoul.

Kim reportedly prefers to hold the summit in Pyongyang but is said to be considering Mongolia as a possible location.

Mongolia is not only friendly to both the US and North Korea but is ideal for the North Korean leader as he would be able to travel there on his bulletproof train, noted JoongAng Ilbo.

The US, however, is not keen on Mongolia due to the inadequate infrastructure in its capital Ulaanbaatar.

“The US government excluded countries with personal interests from the list of candidates, including South Korea, Japan and China, and afterwards looked for Southeast Asian countries that simultaneously met various conditions, which is why Singapore was selected,” a source was quoted as saying.

The US and North Korea have been negotiating a summit between Trump and Kim to broker a deal on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

A decision on the host country is expected as early as this week.