Singapore spent S$20m to host Trump-Kim summit: PM Lee

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International desk, June 10: The Republic will spend about S$20 million on logistics and security to host the high-profile meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but that is a price Singapore is “willing to pay” for a “very important operation”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.“It cost some money to put up… (But) it is our contribution to an international endeavour that is in our profound interest,” said Mr Lee, who met the Singapore media on the sidelines of his visit to the International Media Centre set up at the F1 Pit building on Sunday (June 10).

About half of the cost will go towards stepping up security arrangements for the historic event.

It was not easy to find a suitable host for the Trump-Kim summit – which will take place on Tuesday at Sentosa island’s Capella hotel – and Mr Lee said it “says something about Singapore’s relations with the parties and our standing in the international community”.

“Both sides have to agree, it has to meet their requirements, it has to be politically and diplomatically acceptable to them. Practical arrangements have also to be seen to… So there are not many places to go,” he said.

“Therefore when the two sides asked us to host the meeting, we cannot say no. We have to step up, we are capable of doing it. We have to put (in) some resources but we are able to do a good job,” said Mr Lee.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told reporters on Sunday there were “easily 5,000 Home Team officers”, including police and Singapore Civil Defence Force officers, deployed.

Private security firms are also involved. Last week, Certis announced it was one of the security providers for the summit and that its auxiliary police officers would perform access control, crowd control and traffic management duties.

The summit was confirmed on June 1 – a week after Mr Trump had threatened to call it off – and preparations were put together at very short notice.

Some 2,500 reporters from all over the world are expected to be in town to cover the summit.

Singapore will gain from publicity of the event but is not looking at specific, quantifiable advantages from playing host, Mr Lee stressed.

“If you calculate the price of everything in this world, you will miss out on the real, important things. In this case, what’s important is that the summit is held and we are hosting it, not extravagantly… You can also be sure that we will do what is necessary to make this a safe meeting,” he said.

The event’s price tag can be justified by the rare opportunity offered for Singapore to contribute to a worthy cause on the international stage, observers told TODAY.

The cost is “commensurate with the level of security required” for the summit, which involved activating various security forces, including operationally ready national servicemen, said Mr Ong Kok Leong, chief operating officer of security agency Secura Group.

“It is hard to compare this with past events as security requirements are likely very, very high,” said Mr Ong, who was formerly a commander at the Singapore Police Force.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, principal adviser of the Pacific Research Centre, added: “There is a price to be paid for high-profile summits such as this, but ultimately it’s about putting Singapore further up on the world stage as one of the most trusted countries where negotiations can take place. Singapore’s tourism and arbitration, for example, would benefit tremendously.”

“The Government sees this as a contribution to maintaining international stability and well-being of the region,” said S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) professor Tan See Seng.

As with other high-stakes international meetings that Singapore has hosted, the Trump-Kim summit will ensure that Singapore is “kept in the limelight”, said Dr Tan, a professor of international relations who specialises in politics and security in Asia Pacific.

“It is an opportunity to demonstrate our relevance in the world,” he said.

RSIS research fellow Dr Graham Ong-Webb urged Singaporeans to look beyond monetary terms. “We need to look at the value we are generating from this dollar amount… Ten years down the road, if North Korea is completely denuclearised, we can say we had a role in starting this process… It is an investment worth pursuing in any case.”

Source: TODAYonline