Historic Trump-Kim summit confirmed to take place in Singapore. Here’s why

All eyes will be on Singapore on June 12 when the Little Red Dot hosts a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the first-ever meeting between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader.

Calling the meeting “highly anticipated” (accurate) Trump went on to say that he will do his best to make the meeting a “very special moment for World Peace.”

As recently as late April, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had heard no formal request from the US about a potential summit. Perhaps that’s changed, but Trump does have a habit of tweeting first and figuring out the details later.

The confirmed location and date was revealed hours after three American prisoners were released by North Korea and arrived back in the United States. Trump welcomed home the three Americans — two of whom were detained since last year; the other was arrested in 2015 — on an airfield outside Washington.

“We are starting off on a new footing — I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” Trump said ahead of the summit, as quoted by CNN.

“It’s never been taken this far, there has never been a relationship like this. I really think a lot of progress has been made.”

On neutral ground

PM Lee Trump
US President Donald Trump and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP

Singapore maintains friendly but neutral relations with both North Korea and the United States, and the distance between Pyongyang and the city-state is 4,700 kilometers — well within the range of Kim’s converted Soviet-era aircraft, which can only fly stably for up to around 5,000 kilometers.

US officials had previously considered holding the summit at the Korean demilitarised zone (for its symbolic status) or in Mongolia (where Kim could travel to by bulletproof train). A source close to the White House noted that the president wants to have a glamorous location for the historic convention, and Singapore is as glamorous as a hyper-successful Southeast Asian city-state can be.

It wouldn’t be the first time Singapore hosted a historic first meeting between two top leaders. In 2015, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping here — the first time leaders from both sides met since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949.

As for President Trump’s relationship with Singapore, it has been pretty limited. Highlights include the time when the man (or at least one of his aides) made the error of mistaking PM Lee as Indonesian president Jokowi Widodo. Months after the two leaders met, Trump expressed that he’s a huge fan of Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking after hearing what PM Lee had to say about handling drug problems.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) noted that Singapore is “pleased” to host the meeting, referring to the North Korean leader by his really long title “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim Jong Un”.

“We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula”.

PM Lee has yet to issue any comment of his own about having two of the most high-profile political figures in the world congregating here. Regardless of the outcome of the talks, the world will know that Singapore is not part of China, at the very least.

 

Editor’s Note: Article updated to flesh out more details.

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