None like Singapore to host US-North Korea summit

By Wang Congyue Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 17:23:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Singapore has been chosen as the venue for the historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump. Other neutral countries like Switzerland and Mongolia were also shortlisted, and the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas was also one of US' options. However, Singapore stands out because of its own advantages - its ability to meet both countries' needs, and more importantly, the positive symbolism it represents.

Singapore presents a mix of Eastern and Western cultures, and integrates tradition with modernity. Lee Kuan Yew was the first prime minister of Singapore, and his elder son, Lee Hsien Loong, followed him in the chair in 2004. North Korea could identify with this. The city-state is an important economic and security partner of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. It was once the seventh largest trading partner of North Korea. Moreover, as an international metropolis, Singapore will be able to provide security, logistics, communication and other services for the summit. The city-state will be well-prepared for the Kim-Trump summit after hosting the Shangri-La Dialogue in early June.

Singapore can also meet the needs of different parties. It has maintained diplomatic ties with North Korea and the US with both countries' embassies on its soil, which provides guarantee for the upcoming summit. Besides, Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world, and is capable of ensuring the security for the meeting with its tradition of few street demonstrations.

The distance to the Southeast Asian nation from North Korea must also have been factored in while selecting the venue. As Singapore lies 4,700 km from North Korea, there is no need for Kim's special plane to make a stopover. Although Kim cannot take a special train to Singapore like he can do to Ulaanbaatar, it is much more convenient than travelling to Switzerland.

All of Singapore's features diminish Kim's risks of returning to the international community, which leaves him with no reason to vote Singapore down. As for Trump, "neutrality" was the keyword behind his venue choice. The historic summit needs to be located in a third-party country without historical disputes and conflicts of interest. Panmunjom is unsuitable because it is too politicized, and it may give South Korea too much publicity. Singapore also plays an indispensable role in China-US diplomacy. It readily agreed to host the summit which reflects its strategy of playing a big diplomatic role among major powers as a small country and its intention to gain international reputation.

Singapore also endows the Kim-Trump summit with symbolic meaning. Its various cultural symbols point at cooperation between the East and West. Besides, Kim intends to lead North Korea back into the international mainstream. He leaves the peninsula for a neutral country to attend the scheduled summit, which is an essential step of his plan.

At the same time, it shows that Trump is trying to reduce US' habitual dependence on South Korea when communicating with the North. No matter what the result, it reflects Washington's intention of improving relations with Pyongyang. Singapore is also a country that North Korea can learn from. The city-state underwent rapid development as one of the "Four Asian Tigers."

The two countries' final choice provides a chance for North Korea to learn from Singapore's experiences, and also has the potential to influence Kim's domestic economic reforms.

North Korea and the US chose Singapore after careful thinking. With its long-standing civilization, remarkable development and diplomatic ties to both countries, it can play an important role in improving bilateral relations between Pyongyang and Washington. It has no historical or political disputes with either country, and hasn't made mistakes in holding summits. Besides, it enjoys international reputation of neutrality, security, social order and efficiency. Consequently, it is the best option for the upcoming Kim-Trump summit in June.

The author is assistant research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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