The Trump-Kim summit is the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. But how did it come to be held in Singapore?
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, several locations were considered: the Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, the border barrier that separates North and South Korea; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Geneva, Switzerland; and Stockholm, Sweden.
However, it was Singapore, a city-state of five million people at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, that quickly emerged as the top choice.
It’s a neutral player in the region and both the U.S. and North Korea have embassies there. Singapore’s diplomatic relations with North Korea stretch back four decades. American diplomats also work closely with Singapore on many strategic issues, and it has been a longtime U.S. trading partner and ally.
Singapore has also played host to many other bilateral meetings, and is increasingly becoming a hub for regional diplomacy in Asia. In 2015 the presidents of China and Taiwan met face-to-face for the first time in Singapore, and earlier this month, it hosted U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and his counterparts from the Indo-Pacific region for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of security officials and academics.
Tightly controlled Singapore is attractive because it is safe and unlikely to be marred by protests or security threats, as it tightly controls public demonstrations, and its security and intelligence apparatus is considered one of the best in the world. It is often ranked as one of the safest places in Asia.
In the past, it has also been an easy destination for the North Korean elite. Singapore is a short flight from North Korea for Kim Jong Un, and until recently, North Koreans could travel there visa-free for such luxuries as shopping, and sophisticated medical care.
Though small, Singapore is also wealthy, and able to shoulder the cost of the historic summit, which would appeal to cash-strapped North Korea. According to Reuters, earlier this month Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng commented on Singapore paying for many of the expenses of the sit down between Trump and Kim.
“It is a cost that we’re willing to bear to play a small part in this historic meeting,” the defense minister said.