Sat, May 12, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Singapore ideal summit site: analysts

DIALOGUE:In 2015, the city-state was the site of another unprecedented summit between two leaders: Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-president Ma Ying-jeou


Singapore’s diplomatic ties with North Korea and its relative proximity made the small Southeast Asian city-state a natural choice for the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, analysts said.

Trump on Thursday announced in a tweet that the two leaders would meet in Singapore on June 12.

The city-state is “a great location” for the summit, said Tom Plant, who specializes in nuclear and proliferation issues at London’s Royal United Services Institute.

“Kim will be on friendly territory, not hostile territory, but he wouldn’t be on home turf,” Plant said.

Among the factors: it is closer for Kim than possible European venues, the experience of Singapore’s security forces and the fact that Pyongyang has had diplomatic relations with the city-state since 1975.

Singapore is familiar ground for the reclusive communist nation, which has an embassy in its central business district.

Single-party rule since Singapore gained independence in 1965 has ensured stability and fostered a security state that is among the world’s most efficient, although sometimes it is decried by civil libertarians as repressive.

Located between two Muslim-majority nations — Malaysia and Indonesia — with Islamic State group sympathizers, it has effectively checked terrorist threats.

A US Department of State report on human rights for last year said Singapore’s “most significant human rights issues” included caning as punishment; preventive detention under various laws without warrant, filing of charges or normal judicial review; monitoring private electronic or telephone communications without a warrant; significant restrictions on freedoms of assembly and expression, including for the press and online; the use of defamation laws to discourage criticism; laws and regulations significantly limiting freedom of association; and the criminalization of sexual activities between men, although the law is not enforced.

North Korea’s state companies have, in the past, conducted legal and illegal business dealings with Singaporean companies.

The city-state, under pressure from the US and a leaked UN report, officially cut off trade relations with North Korea last year to abide by sanctions.

Singapore also is welcome ground for the US.

It is a large trading partner, the second-largest Asian investor and a longtime supporter of its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Singapore is also the regional headquarters of large US companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc and Airbnb Inc.

Diplomatic relations between the two nations were established in 1966.

“The North Korean side will likely have a very large number of logistical and protocol issues it wants addressed by the summit venue, so having a [North Korean] embassy in the country where the summit is to be held is likely a requirement,” Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute senior fellow Malcolm Cook said.

Located just over 4,800km from North Korea, Singapore is comfortably within the flying range of its aircraft. Flying to western Europe would have required a stop or two to refuel.

The city-state is ideal because it has been “an honest broker between East and West,” Former US ambassador to Singapore David Adelman said.

“Singapore has been a great friend to the US, but also Singapore has carefully worked to be a friend to all, which has earned it trust in capitals around the world,” he said.

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