Singapore ties with US, NKorea make city-state summit site

In this Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, file photo, Gurkha police on patrol guard the venue of the IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump said in a tweet. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
The signage of the Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is seen at the entrance of a building, in Singapore, Thursday, May 10, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump said in a tweet. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
The signage of the Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is seen at the entrance of a building, in Singapore, Thursday, May 10, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump said in a tweet. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
The national flag of Singapore flies against the financial skyline lining the edge of the Singapore River on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Singapore. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
In this Monday, Sept. 11, 2006, file photo, a Gurkha police officer stands guard outside the venue of the IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump said in a tweet.(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this Friday, June 3, 2011, file photo, Gurkha police stand guard at the venue of a security summit held in Singapore. Singapore has a secure venue for high level talks. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump said in a tweet. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
Singapore's financial skyline is seen lining the edge of the Singapore River on Thursday, May 10, 2018, in Singapore. U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on upcoming June 12, Trump announced in a Tweet Thursday May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
FILE - This combination of two file photos shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaking during a roundtable discussion on tax cuts in Cleveland, Ohio, May 5, 2018 and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, talking with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27, 2018. North Korea’s release of three American detainees is both hopeful and disheartening for the relatives of hundreds of South Koreans abducted by the North. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File)

SINGAPORE — Singapore's diplomatic ties with North Korea and its relative proximity made the Southeast Asian city-state a natural choice for the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump announced in a tweet Thursday 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. Located between two Muslim majority nations — Malaysia and Indonesia — with Islamic State group sympathizers, it has effectively checked terrorist threats.

It's also a perfect venue for top security meetings — protests are not allowed without permission, movement is strictly controlled and media are kept under control.

Singapore is sometimes decried by civil libertarians as repressive. Among the most common complaints: preventive detention without warrants or charges; monitoring of private electronic or telephone communications also without warrants; the use of defamation laws to discourage government criticism and strict laws limiting freedom of association, according to the annual U.S. State Department human rights report.

North Korea's state companies have, in the past, conducted legal and illegal business dealings with Singaporean companies. The city-state, under pressure from the U.S. and a leaked U.N. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman said Singapore was ideal because it has been "an honest broker between East and West."

"Singapore has been a great friend to the U.S. but also Singapore has carefully worked to be a friend to all, which has earned it trust in capitals around the world," he said.

Its free enterprise philosophy welcomes trading partners from everywhere, regardless of politics.

"We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In 2015, Singapore was the site of another unprecedented summit between two leaders burdened with a legacy of mutual distrust: Chinese President Xi Jinping and rival Taiwan's then-President Ma Ying-jeou, the first such meeting since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

It also has hosted regional meetings, including the summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2007 and 2018. Since 2002, an annual security conference has been held there, featuring defense chiefs and officials from countries including the U.S., China and South Korea.

For such gatherings, roadblocks are set up around the summit venues, where armed Nepalese Gurkhas stand guard.

In 2015, Gurkha officers fired at a car that breached four roadblocks and crashed into a concrete barrier. The driver was killed and two passengers arrested in what turned out to be a drug-related crash, rather than an attack.

Valued foreign guests won't be troubled by protesters, either. Demonstrations in Singapore can only be held in a designated area, the 2.4-acre (0.9-hectare) Hong Lim Park.

Amnesty International says amendments to the country's Public Order Act have given authorities more power to restrict public assembly, and participants in peaceful protests have been arrested.

Must Read

Giant panda is no longer endangered, experts say

Sep 5, 2016

A leading international group has taken the giant panda off its endangered list thanks to decades...

China imports grow in August for 1st time in 2 years

Sep 8, 2016

China trade showed unexpected strength in August in a positive sign for global economic growth

China, Russia launch South China Sea naval war games

Sep 12, 2016

China's military says the Chinese and Russian navies are launching eight days of war games in the...

Asian markets lower after Wall Street decline

Sep 15, 2016

Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday following Wall Street's decline in light trading...

Asian stocks rise after Wall Street gains

Dec 21, 2016

Asian stocks are higher after U.S. stocks rose to record levels despite attacks in Germany and...