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Ties with US, North Korea make Singapore optimum summit site

By PTI
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    Singapore, May 11:  Singapore's diplomatic ties with North Korea and its relative proximity made the small Southeast Asian nation a natural choice for the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, analysts say.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. PTI file photo

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

    The city 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." Among the factors: it's closer for Kim than possible Europe venues, the experience of Singapore's security forces, and the fact that Pyongyang has had diplomatic relations with the country since 1975.

    Singapore is familiar ground for the reclusive communist country, which has its embassy in Singapore's 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.

    According to the US State Department's report on human rights for 2017, Singapore's "most significant human rights issues" included caning as punishment imposed by the courts; preventive detention under various laws without warrant, filing of charges, or normal judicial review; monitoring private electronic or telephone communications without a warrant; the use of defamation laws to discourage criticism; and the criminalisation of sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced.

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

    The city-state, under pressure from the US and a leaked UN report, officially cut off trade relations with North Korea in 2017 to abide by sanctions.

    Singapore also is welcome ground for the United States. It is a large trading partner, the second-largest Asian investor, and a longtime supporter of its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

    It's also the regional headquarters of large US companies including Google, Facebook and Airbnb. Diplomatic relations between the two countries 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," said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

    Located just over 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) from North Korea, Singapore is comfortably within the flying range of its aircraft. Flying to western Europe would require a stop or two to refuel.

    "Singapore is neither too far away as European nations are, allowing Kim Jong Un's private jet to make it here without refueling, nor too close that Trump might be seen as 'giving way' to Kim by having to travel a longer distance than the latter," said Nah Liang Tuang, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.

    Former US Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman said Singapore was ideal because it has been "an honest broker between East and West."

    PTI

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