11 June 18 The Business Times by LEE U-WEN
THE Singapore government is spending about S$20 million to host this week's unprecedented meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with security costs coming up to roughly half that amount.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this on Sunday, adding that the June 12 summit will give Singapore global publicity and demonstrate the country's standing in the international community.
"When the (US and North Korea) asked us to host the meeting, we could not say no. We have to step up and we can. We are capable of doing it, we have put some resources into it, and we can do a good job," said Mr Lee.
"The fact we have been chosen as the site of the meeting, we did not ask for it but we were asked and we agreed. This says something about Singapore's relations with America and North Korea, and also our standing in the international community."
Mr Lee said the S$20 million amount is a cost that the government is willing to bear, as this is Singapore's contribution "to an international endeavour which is in our profound interest".
He made the point that Singapore was likely to recoup some of the costs of hosting the summit over time.
"If you calculate the price of everything in this world, you will miss out on the really important things. In this case, what is important is that the summit is being held, and we are hosting it, not extravagantly but with due consideration to costs and making sure operational requirements are met," he said.
Mr Lee was speaking to the local media after touring the summit's international media centre (IMC) at the F1 Pit Building beside the Singapore Flyer.
He had earlier visited the Singapore Armed Forces operations deployment at Sentosa and the Home Team Command Post at the Police Head-quarters in Novena.
Some 2,500 journalists and photographers from around the world are accredited to cover the summit, which is due to take place on Tuesday morning at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa.
Mr Lee was accompanied at the IMC by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, and Minister S Iswaran and Senior Minister of State Sim Ann from the Ministry of Communications and Information.
During the media interview, Mr Lee said that Singapore had committed a lot of resources to the summit's logistics and security because of the profile of the meeting and the nature of what is being discussed.
"It's purely a practical consideration. The scale is bigger, the number of journalists coming is huge, even more than what we had for the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank meetings (in Singapore in 2006)," he said.
In terms of safety and security, he gave the assurance that there will be round-the-clock protection that covers all the bases - air, land and sea - against any attacks and mishaps.
"The air force, navy, army, commandos, police, civil defence and hospitals are all on alert. This is a very major operation because it's a high-profile meeting and we cannot afford to have anything go wrong," he added.
Mr Lee also said it was "not easy" to find a location in the world that is suitable to host such a high-level meeting.
Both the US and North Korea have to agree on a venue that meets their requirements and is "politically and diplomatically" acceptable to them as well, he said.
Mr Lee said that the summit has the potential to set developments on the Korean Peninsula on a "new path" towards denuclearisation.
"The situation in North-east Asia, and the problem of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, is one that affects the security of the entire region - not just North-east Asia, but the whole of Asia and in fact, more broadly, the whole world," he said.
When asked for the sort of outcome that Singapore would like to see come Tuesday, Mr Lee said he hoped the summit "would lead to denuclearisation eventually, which will be a long process".
"There are many twists and turns, but this is a first step to turning around a situation that was heading in the wrong direction," said the Singapore leader.
Mr Kim's Air China flight from Pyongyang touched down at the VIP terminal of Changi Airport on Sunday at about 2.40pm, while Mr Trump's Air Force One landed at Paya Lebar Airbase close to 8pm.
Mr Kim, who is the chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea, headed to the Istana on Sunday where he met Mr Lee for the first time.
Mr Kim said to Mr Lee: "The entire world is focusing on the historic summit between the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and the US, and thanks to your sincere efforts . . . we were able to complete the preparations for the historic summit, and I would like to thank you for that."
Mr Trump, who is in Singapore for the first time since he took office in January 2017, is also due to have a separate meeting with Mr Lee at the same venue on Monday.
- Business leaders cautiously optimistic on Trump-Kim meet
- Views from the top: Big step towards world peace
- Singapore-North Korea trade can grow if UN sanctions are lifted: PM