Saturday, 12 May 2018

Singapore to host Trump-Kim summit on 12 June 2018

Singapore confirmed as host of historic summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on June 12
Trump's announcement ends weeks of speculation over possible locations for summit
By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 May 2018

It is confirmed: Singapore will host the upcoming summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12.

Mr Trump announced this in a tweet last night, ending weeks of speculation over the location for the first meeting between leaders of both countries.

"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12. We will both try to make it a very special moment for world peace!" he wrote.

Singapore said it is pleased to host the meeting between the two leaders. "We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the the Korean peninsula," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Mr Trump's announcement confirmed weeks of rumours that the Republic had emerged as a firm location for the upcoming summit.

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.

Mr Will Saetren, research associate at the Institute for China-America Studies, said: "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. Singapore is a logical choice."

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 the summit would not be held in the DMZ. Without saying why, he said an announcement would be made in three days.

Visiting US 7th Fleet commander, Vice-Admiral Phillip Sawyer, told local media yesterday that "the region and the world is cautiously optimistic and hopeful of what will come out of this (the meeting)".

With Singapore being named as the venue for the meeting, experts The Straits Times spoke to weighed in on the merits of three possible locations in the Republic.


A hospitality and events consultant, who did not wish to be named, said 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 it also hosts the Shangri-La Dialogue."

Mr Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group, noted that the security preparations in place for the dialogue taking place early next month makes it the ideal location, as there is no need "to replan and redeploy the security assets".


MBS has been flagged as a possible venue for the summit, given that one of Mr Trump's major donors, Mr Sheldon Adelson, is chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp, which owns the Singapore integrated resort.

The US President is known to take pride in being loyal to his supporters, and a high-profile meeting at MBS would give it priceless international publicity.

Mr Koh, however, does not think it is a suitable venue, as MBS is too close to the busy city centre, and traffic in the area might mean that getting to and from the venue would 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.


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 Nirmal Ghosh in the US, Aw Cheng Wei, Kimberley Chia and Lee Wen-Yi

PM Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore honoured to host Trump-Kim summit, invites US leader for state visit in November
The Straits Times, 12 May 2018

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said Singapore is honoured to host next month's summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during a telephone call with Mr Trump yesterday.

Calling the summit a historic and momentous event, Mr Lee said Singapore would do its best to facilitate a smooth and successful meeting, according to a statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Mr Trump and Mr Kim will be in Singapore for their June 12 meeting, and the denuclearisation of North Korea is expected to figure high on the agenda.

"This would be an important first step in the long process of securing lasting peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," the MFA statement on the telephone call said.

President Trump thanked Mr Lee for hosting the summit.

"He said there had been significant progress on this matter just in the last few months, and hoped that the summit would contribute to resolving this long-outstanding issue," the statement added.

During the call, Mr Lee also invited the US leader to make a state visit to Singapore in November, in conjunction with the 6th Asean-US Summit and 13th East Asia Summit. Mr Trump replied that he would try his best to do so, the MFA said.

Why Singapore for Trump-Kim summit? White House says neutrality and security clinched it
Republic has ties with both nations and can ensure safety of both leaders: White House
By Nirmal Ghosh, US Bureau Chief In Washington, The Straits Times, 12 May 2018

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."

"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 moveable feast for Trump and Kim: Singapore has much to offer as host
Singapore has much to offer as host of the landmark summit next month
By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor, The Straits Times, 11 May 2018

"Austria, a small and neutral state," its Federal President Adolf Scharf said in May 1961, "does not take part in the summit itself but the Austrians and the Viennese want to do everything they can to ease the implementation of the talks, and to make the encounter between the participants pleasant and comfortable."

Those words set the stage for the historic first meeting between newly elected United States President John Kennedy and the mercurial Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

It is the merry month of May again and although in decidedly warmer climes, Mr Scharf's remarks may well frame the sentiments of Singapore's leadership. The island was last night confirmed as the venue for the landmark talks on June 12 between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

There is no shortage of comfortable locations for the two to meet.

There is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the iconic hostelry owned by Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson, which is a quick ride on the "Beast" from the Paya Lebar Air Base that Air Force One has traditionally plonked down on, whether to ferry Mr Barack Obama here in 2009 for the Apec Summit or on the two visits his predecessor, Mr George W. Bush, made here in 2003 and 2006. Or, for a picture against a setting sun should the talks go well, a convenient location on Sentosa island may not be a bad idea.

Still, more humble venues are not unknown. When presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, for their all-important summit in 1986, the venue was the former French consulate, a modest three-storey building. While the talks were not successful due to last minute hitches, it did lead to the Intermediate Range Nuclear Force Treaty inked the following year.

"Our job is to just provide the table," says a seasoned Singaporean diplomat now retired. "We've done this kind of thing earlier, but not at the same scale. Of course, this time we are hosting two unpredictable chaps, needless to say."


When a city hosts two world leaders who are not short on enemies each, security is the biggest nightmare.

As good hosts, the authorities will no doubt listen carefully to every demand put forth by the twin delegations. But often they tend to be excessive and it is sometimes necessary to put a heavy foot down. For instance, a visiting Indian leader may be used to having traffic blocked for him for an hour before his motorcade passes; in Singapore, that tends to be a matter of just minutes.

Even so, there is little question that this is one meeting for which the local authorities will leave nothing to chance. Hence, there is an equally strong chance that it may, ultimately, fall to the Shangri-La Hotel to host the summiteers, if only because the local authorities are so used to mounting maximum security events there and sterilising it for security. That the summit will take place just after the annual Shangri-La Dialogue (June 1 to 3) would mean most of the security drills for the place would have been rehearsed by the time Mr Trump and Mr Kim sit down.

A successful summit would be a huge feather in Singapore's cap, elevating its reputation for fair dealing and neutrality; but a less successful one will not take anything away from it.

Back in 1995, when Singapore was touted as the venue for the inaugural summit of the World Trade Organisation to be held at the end of the following year, there were many hand-wringers in government. There was fear that Singapore's image would be dented if the talks, which involved several ticklish issues, failed. Others fretted that non-governmental organisations would disrupt the proceedings.

In the end, hosting the summit cemented Singapore's reputation as the pre-eminent trading nation and the movement on several key issues that the summit achieved was just another layer on the kueh.

Likewise, failure or lack of immediate success is not a shameful event for a third-party venue provider. In July and August 1985, India sought to organise peace talks in Thimphu, capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, between the Sri Lankan government and the island's Tamil insurgents. Subsequently, even though the talks failed, the Thimphu Principles - a set of four demands set forth by the Tamils - became enshrined in the annals of foreign policy discussions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has set a high bar for success: the immediate "permanent, verifiable irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programme". It is important, therefore, to keep realistic expectations. North Korea's nuclear prowess was not built in a day and neither will its dismantling be rapid.


While Singapore can expect Mr Kim to fly in and out, Mr Trump may probably choose to spend more time on the island. The tight strategic ties between the US and Singapore aside, he has reason to feel more comfortable here than in most other Asian spots - Singapore, after all, does not run a trade surplus with his country. And having flown all the way, it might make good sense to also turn it into a bilateral visit honouring a trusted friend.

But there is another issue; more than twice the age of his 34-year-old interlocutor, it is a fair bet that his handlers would ensure the 45th President, who turns 72 next month, is well rested and alert before he sits down with the third of the Kim dynasts, who, despite his relative inexperience, has shown remarkable agility in his foreign policy.

"He is not dumb, he is *** smart," Mr Kennedy is said to have remarked, as he read through the CIA's psychological profile of Mr Khrushchev, ahead of their talks. Nearly six decades later, that could be said for Mr Kim too.

For his part, Mr Kim would probably have been told by Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he visited in Dalian this week, that it would be prudent for him to keep his points short and not to speak for more than five minutes at a stretch. Aware of Mr Trump's short attention span, that is the way Mr Xi himself is said to have prepared for his evidently successful summit with the US President last year at Mar-a-Lago.

Much interest will focus on whether the two decide to bring along their wives. Unlike in the days when Mrs Nancy Reagan and Mrs Raisa Gorbachev often vied for centre-stage, Mr Trump should have no fear that his wife Melania will be upstaged by the petite Mrs Kim.

That said, there is always the threat that the husband gets upstaged at a key moment in his career by too much attention lavished on his spouse. Taken aback by the reception his wife Jacqueline received in Paris, Mr Kennedy was said to have been privately angry, even though he adroitly turned it into a famously droll moment by introducing himself at a major speech as "the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris".

One thing neither party will be short of on the island is home food. Mr Kim would know there are plenty of fine dining places that could supply him good kimchi or bibimbap, or if he were to follow his Swiss tastes, fine raclette. As for Mr Trump there always is Morton's of Chicago for a fine steak or Wolfgang Puck's Cut.

Anyway you like it, and in more ways than one, Singapore is a moveable feast.

US detainees' release by North Korea keeps up talks momentum
Move gives Trump big diplomatic win in lead-up to historic summit
By Nirmal Ghosh, US Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, 11 May 2018

Three American nationals released from jail in North Korea were greeted on arrival by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at a specially staged event at 2.40am yesterday at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington DC. It was a big diplomatic win for Mr Trump ahead of his summit in Singapore on June 12 with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Kim Dong Chul, Mr Tony Kim Sang Duk and Mr Kim Hak Song, who according to North Korean media were jailed for acts hostile to the state, were released by Mr Kim Jong Un as a goodwill gesture.

They were escorted back to the United States by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, just days into his new job, has scored a major diplomatic win for Mr Trump.

Their release maintains the momentum towards the summit and addresses a concern in the US that Mr Trump may go into the meeting with little to show in the lead-up to it. Mr Pompeo told reporters on the flight home that it would have been more difficult had the men not been released. "I'm glad that we don't have to confront that."

It was an easy giveaway for Mr Kim, analysts said. But for Mr Trump, it will go down well with his support base at home. "It is, for sure, a political plus for Trump," Dr Glenn Altschuler, professor of American studies at Cornell University, told The Straits Times. "All the more so, because it underscores his message that toughness gets results."

Mr Pompeo arrived at the base just after 2am, followed shortly by a second plane carrying the three Americans, which parked in front of a gigantic American flag suspended between the extended ladders of two fire trucks. Mr Trump went into the plane first with Mrs Trump and spent a few minutes inside. Vice-President Mike Pence, his wife, and Mr Pompeo waited below the stairs. Then the couple emerged from the plane door with the three men, beaming and waving. The men flashed victory signs.

"I want to thank Kim Jong Un," Mr Trump told journalists on the tarmac. "It was sort of understood that we'd be able to get these three terrific people during the meeting and bring them home after the meeting. And he was nice in letting them go before the meeting."

"We're starting off on a new footing," he added. "This is a wonderful thing that he released the folks early. That was a big thing. Very important to me. And I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.

"I think he did this because I really think he wants to do something and bring that country into the real world. I think that we're going to have a... very big success.

"My proudest achievement will be... when we denuclearise that entire peninsula. This is what people have been waiting for a long time. Nobody thought we could be on this track in terms of speed."

Mr Pompeo's team in Pyongyang included Mr Brian Hook, the State Department's head of policy planning; and Mr Matt Pottinger of the National Security Council.

Dr Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea Chair at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote in an online comment that the release of the detainees should not absolve Pyongyang of "a history of human rights abuses that must be the topic of any discussion going forward on normalising political relations".

But he added : "It is a good sign that the National Security Council and Department of State staff accompanied Secretary Pompeo, suggesting that more detailed pre-negotiations may be taking place to line up denuclearisation deliverables for the summit."

Leaders' planes may land at Paya Lebar, say security experts
By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 May 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is likely to be accompanied by his sister Kim Yo Jong and other key officials when he meets US President Donald Trump in Singapore next month, may fly here on his Soviet-made long-range aircraft, the Ilyushin-62 (Il-62).

This same aircraft on which he flew to Dalian, China, earlier this week can easily cover the 5,000km distance between Pyongyang and Singapore, experts said.

While it is possible that both he and Mr Trump, who will arrive on Air Force One - the US President's plane - could land at Changi Airport, Paya Lebar Air Base makes more sense, security experts said.

A day after it was confirmed that the historic summit will take place in Singapore on June 12, attention has turned to where the talks will be held, how the two leaders will arrive and where they will land.

Much is known about Air Force One, but very little about the North Korean leader's official aircraft.

Mr Kim's visit to China was his first reported international flight after he assumed power in 2011.

The IL-62 is also operated by North Korea's national carrier Air Koryo. Aviation enthusiast Sim Kok Chwee said: "I flew the same aircraft from Beijing to Pyongyang in 2004 and was quite impressed with the airline's service level, although there was no in-flight entertainment. Air Koryo, which presumably maintains the country's state aircraft as well, would also be required to meet all global safety and other standards."

There is some speculation that the North Korean leader could borrow a plane from China for the meeting in Singapore, but Ms Sarah Teo, associate research fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said it is unlikely.

"Flying in on his own aircraft would fit the narrative of North Korea's independence and strength coming into the meeting," said Ms Teo, who has been following developments on the Korean peninsula for about a decade.

Where the two leaders will land in Singapore is a more critical decision, experts said.

Mr Michael Daniel, a retired US aviation official who now runs his own consultancy, said: "This requires careful consideration and coordination between the countries involved - Singapore, the US and North Korea - as well as the various security and other government agencies within each country."

Dr Bilveer Singh, senior adjunct fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "As a major commercial airport, flights at Changi Airport could be disrupted if, for any reason, the air space needs to be closed temporarily to accommodate the high-level flights.

"It is also important to note that we are dealing with two leaders and states that are paranoid about security. The reason the summit is being held here in the first place is partly because they are confident that Singapore can and will offer 101 per cent security. If this is the key consideration, landing at Paya Lebar is the best option."

N. Korean and US embassies couldn't be more different
By Tan Shu Yan and Nathanael Phang, The Sunday Times, 13 May 2018

The 15th floor of a mundane office block in North Bridge Road is shared by 10 tenants, including a language school, a business equipment supply firm and a food and beverage company.

Along the nondescript corridor that links the offices - and with almost nothing to set it apart from the others - is a door next to a bronze sign and security pin device.

Welcome to the Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korea's diplomatic mission in Singapore goes almost unnoticed.

However, its situation says much about the country's image here, especially when compared to the sprawling, high-security United States Embassy in Napier Road, built at an estimated cost of US$30 million (S$40 million).

The US Embassy, flanked by Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British High Commission, the Australian High Commission and China's embassy, features a reflecting pool, a landscaped colonnade and materials including Minnesota granite and Vermont marble.

Meanwhile, behind a frosted glass front door, North Korean Ambassador Kim Chol Nam and three other embassy staff operate out of a suite of rooms in High Street Centre, an unassuming building which overlooks Clarke Quay and stands opposite Parliament House.

The embassy operates from 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm on weekdays. It reportedly moved to its current site in 2016 from a "five-bedroom, 7,500-sq-ft house" at 60, Joo Chiat Lane.

Before that, it was located at Golden Mile Complex.

Singapore established diplomatic relations with North Korea in November 1975 and with the United States in April 1966.

US relations with Singapore go back to 1836 when Joseph Balestier was appointed as the first consul-general, according to the US Embassy website. His wife was the daughter of American revolutionary Paul Revere, famous for warning "the British are coming" on his midnight ride.

Summit a boost to Singapore's standing
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 13 May 2018

Singapore will solidify its reputation as a politically neutral and secure place by hosting the historic summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12, said foreign policy experts.

Mr Trump confirmed Singapore would host the meeting in a tweet last Thursday.

"It is a definite plus, that we are seen to be secure, trusted, neutral," said Professor Chan Heng Chee, chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore's former ambassador to the US.

Associate Professor Alan Chong, from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, reckons the choice of venue endorses "Singapore's centrality and neutrality, the DNA of our foreign policy".

Some observers have described the decision as a diplomatic coup, citing Singapore's small size.

Being deemed suitable for such a landmark meeting by both the US and North Korea underscores Singapore's relevance to the world, said veteran diplomat Ong Keng Yong.

He cited the country's track record in hosting other high-level diplomatic meetings in the past.

In 2015, Singapore played host to a historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou - the first time top leaders from both sides met since 1949.

In 1993, the Republic also hosted the Wang-Koo meeting - named after Mr Wang Daohan, chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, and Mr Koo Chen-fu, chief of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation - a landmark meeting where Taiwan and China discussed bilateral ties.

Mr Ong said North Korean and South Korean officials have also met in Singapore in the past."By coming here, it reaffirms that we have the political and strategic qualities which facilitate high-level, sensitive diplomacy, and in the long run, it will help to boost Singapore's standing among our Asean neighbours and countries of the world."

Prof Chan said: "It's also because we're seen to be a discreet country. That's very important in the run up, especially when you're doing a lot of planning for such a highly sensitive meeting."

While there may be inconveniences resulting from security arrangements like road blocks, Mr Ong said these are a small price to pay as "this is something money cannot buy", noting that other countries had offered to host the meeting.

Other venues considered include the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, and Mongolia.

The outcome of the Trump-Kim summit - whether successful or not - will not harm Singapore, said Prof Chan. "It is in the nature of difficult talks and conflict-resolution talks that they take a long time. It is a process."

The Republic is among a small number of countries which has diplomatic relations with both the US and North Korea, which each have an embassy here. It is a close partner of the US in the region, and established diplomatic ties with North Korea in 1975.

Hotel rooms at two likely venues sold out
Shangri-La Hotel and Marina Bay Sands said to be top picks for Trump-Kim summit
By Tiffany Fumiko Tay, The Straits Times, 12 May 2018

All rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel and Marina Bay Sands - the two likely venues for the historic meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month - have been snapped up by yesterday afternoon.

Checks by The Straits Times on their websites and third-party booking platforms such as Expedia and showed that rooms were sold out on the dates surrounding June 12 - the date for the summit.

President Trump had announced in a tweet on Thursday night that the first meeting between the two leaders would be held in Singapore on June 12, ending weeks of speculation on the venue of the summit.

Shangri-La Hotel, which hosts the annual high-level Shangri-La security dialogue, has been touted by observers as the most likely venue for the meeting.

Shangri-La said in a statement yesterday that while it is pleased that Singapore will host the upcoming meeting, "the hotel has not received confirmation on the venue and is not in a position to make any comments on behalf of the stakeholders involved in the preparation of this summit".

Sentosa and integrated resort Marina Bay Sands (MBS) had also been touted as possible locations for the summit, though sources told The Straits Times that the competition had been narrowed down to either Shangri-La or MBS.

MBS is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp, of which major Trump donor Sheldon Adelson is chairman and chief executive officer. MBS declined to comment.

Meanwhile, hotels located close to both venues said they are bracing themselves for higher demand over the period to accommodate the spillover of foreign media and dignitaries.

Orchard Hotel was appointed the official media centre and caterer for the recent Asean Summit, held at Shangri-La some 500m away, general manager Byron Chong told The Straits Times.

The hotel has seen more interest for the period of June 9 to 14, and will continue to monitor room reservations, he said.

Other Orchard Road area hotels, including Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, are also anticipating an increase in bookings.

Royal Plaza on Scotts general manager Patrick Fiat said the hotel hopes the event will have a positive impact on business, amid relatively slower bookings for June this year.

Pan Pacific Singapore, located near MBS, expects an average occupancy rate of close to 90 per cent next month, but can still accommodate some requests, said general manager Gino Tan.

The hotel has played host to several heads of state as well as several high-profile events, including the Asean Tourism Forum, in the past year, and it is "well prepared to support the influx of guests in conjunction with this special event", he said.

Additional reporting by Karamjit Kaur and Lee Wen-Yi

Most Singaporeans support hosting Trump-Kim summit: Poll
By Melanie Anne Bickham and Ng Jun Jie, The Straits Times, 12 May 2018

Most Singaporeans are in favour of the Republic hosting the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a Straits Times poll has found.

Of the 140 people surveyed, around 70 per cent expressed their support, with 20 percent objecting and the rest undecided.

"This is a crazy privilege, and Singapore is lucky to have it," said 57-year-old taxi driver Wong Kee Seong. "The world will see Singapore as an open and neutral ground for international discussions, even if the two leaders themselves are a little bit controversial."

Others were also excited at the prospect of the international spotlight falling on the city.

Ms Joanna Lee, 35, who works in marketing, said the summit will "put Singapore on the map for being more than just a clean and green city, but now also a global player for international policy".

A cabby who only wanted to be known as Mr Wong, in turn, said: "This is going to be in the history books, and we are lucky because we Singaporeans are going to be in the history books too."

For those who would rather the summit be held elsewhere, they cited issues such as security threats and the controversial nature of both Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

A 39-year-old sales executive who only gave his name as Jeremy said: "Both leaders are politically unconventional, with neither side representing Singapore's own views. We may be seen as too accommodating and may be expected to be this open in the future."

On security, a number of respondents were concerned about the level of security required to host such a high-profile summit.

Student Matthew Teo, 21, felt such increased security "may inconvenience many Singaporeans going about their daily lives, what with all the traffic and extra security checks".

On a lighter note, Singaporeans unsurprisingly also had many food recommendations for the two leaders.

Chicken rice was the top recommendation, voted for by 34 per cent of respondents, followed by chilli crab and laksa.

Mr Dextor Chow, 20, who is entering a local university in August, believes food helps to unite people.

He said: "Chilli crab symbolises the different influences of different cultures in Singapore, and that having differences would help us understand one another better."

Some suggested that Mr Trump may prefer to take the dishes with less chilli.

Respondents were also asked to recommend a local destination for the two leaders to visit.

Almost 30 per cent recommended Gardens by the Bay, with Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa also making the top three.

Business director Margaret Siew, 52, said she could imagine the two leaders settling their disputes over a few sandcastles at one of Sentosa's beaches.

"How can you not feel calm and at ease at Sentosa, with your toes in the sand and the sun on your back?" she said.

Additional reporting by Khoe Wei Jun, Kimberley Chia and Jasia Shamdasani

Making itself useful is Singapore's way
The Straits Times, 12 May 2018

The choice of Singapore as the venue of next month's summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reflects the city-state's diplomatic prowess. Certainly, Singapore offers another advantage, that of security. Its importance cannot be over-emphasised in the organisation of talks between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. Considerations of security must have loomed large in the calculations of the White House. The security surrounding the American President is legendary, and understandably so. In the case of the North Korean leader, his physical security not only symbolises that of his state but underpins it materially as well because of the highly personalised nature of the regime. Singapore has a track record of holding international gatherings free of security incidents or disruptive public protests.

However, the larger point is the diplomatic one: Singapore works hard at being no one's enemy. Thus, it refused to demonise the Soviet Union during the Cold War although its economic and strategic interests lay clearly with the West. Its determined diplomatic opposition to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was not born of ideological hostility to Vietnam's Leninist system but of a refusal to accept the invasion as a fait accompli. In like spirit, Singapore treated China as a great power with legitimate interests; Beijing's political system was a domestic matter. Singapore punches above its weight in world affairs because it does not throw ideological punches. Neutrality comes naturally to a small state, as it should, unless an international issue impinges on its sovereign interest. Being neutral does not mean having no view and never speaking up when it matters.

The results of that approach have been manifested in Singapore's facilitation of conference diplomacy. It hosted the historic Wang-Koo talks of 1993, which brought together Mr Wang Daohan of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Mr Koo Chen-fu of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation. Singapore's One-China policy allowed it to play a facilitative role in the crucially sensitive matter of cross-straits relations. The trust generated by its reputation as an honest broker culminated in the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore in 2015. The parleys were the first between the top leaders of China and Taiwan since the end of the civil war in 1949.

World attention today is focused on the possible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. That would remove a key flashpoint in North-east Asia that impinges on the strategic interests of the United States and China. While Singapore cannot influence outcomes, it is significant that it has been chosen as the site of the North Korean-American summit. Mr Kim understands that Singapore bears his regime no ill-will. Instead, it would applaud the making of peace on the Korean peninsula. Whatever Mr Kim and Mr Trump decide, Singapore will help make diplomatic history.

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