Preparations ramp up for US-North Korea summit in Singapore

Foreign minister travels to Pyongyang after island of Sentosa chosen to host meeting

The Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa island, where Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to meet on June 12th. Photograph:  Jonathan Choo/The Straits Times/EPA

The Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa island, where Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to meet on June 12th. Photograph: Jonathan Choo/The Straits Times/EPA

 

Singapore’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan has gone to Pyongyang to prepare for next week’s summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after the island of Sentosa was chosen as the venue for the historic meeting.

Mr Balakrishnan boarded an Air Koryo flight in Beijing airport and will stay until Friday in the North Korean capital, ahead of the summit on June 12th, to sort out security and protocol details.

He will meet North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho and also visit Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of state.

The summit is due to take place at 9am local time (2am Irish time). Previously it looked like it would not take place after Mr Trump abruptly cancelled it, but following talks, it was back on track.

The US aim of the talks is for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme, although Mr Trump has said recently that ensuring denuclearisation would probably take more than just one meeting. He has described the summit as a “get-to-know-you situation”.

Luxury island

The summit is being held at the five-star Capella hotel on Sentosa, a luxury island just off the mainland that has beaches, high-end hotels, theme parks, casinos and golf courses.

During the second World War, it was a camp for British and Australian prisoners-of-war.

According to the local newspaper Straits Times, Mr Trump will most likely stay at the Shangri-La Hotel in the downtown Tanglin area, where US presidents have stayed before, while Mr Kim looks likely to stay at the St Regis Singapore nearby.

Large swathes of the island republic have been declared “special security zones” for the duration of the summit.

Meanwhile, inter-Korean relations continue to improve. South Korea is sending officials and experts to North Korea this week to start preparing for the reopening of a liaison office in the border city of Kaesong in North Korea.

Kaesong is a joint industrial complex that operated between 2004 and 2016, where South Korean firms employ cheaper North Korean labour. It was closed in 2016 after the North staged a nuclear test.

A delegation of 14 officials, led by deputy unification minister Chun Hae-sung, will travel to Kaesong on Friday to inspect facilities. The joint facility cannot be reopened until sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear programme are lifted.