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North Korea

Vying venues: Singapore and Vietnam both tipped to host second Trump-Kim summit

  • Singapore has already proved it can host a successful summit, but some experts say Vietnam has the edge as an example of reconciliation with the US
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 8:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 9:36pm

Singapore and Vietnam have both been tipped as the likely contenders to host the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sparking a flurry of speculation about which venue might have the edge.

Both destinations are within the limited flying range of Kim’s personal jet and both host North Korean embassies. South Korean officials hinted on Friday that the two countries comprised the final shortlist.

The previous summit was widely seen as an opportunity for Singapore to showcase its dedication to world peace and boost its reputation as a venue for such high-level meetings and conventions.

Hosting the summit in June netted Singapore an estimated US$568 million in exposure, according to media monitoring company Meltwater.

But experts warn that with little tangible progress made since the last meeting, Singaporean taxpayers may be less enthusiastic about footing the bill a second time.
“With the first summit not making any real progress on nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula, that does raise serious questions about whether there will be bang for the buck,” said Eugene Tan, associate professor at Singapore Management University.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha declined to comment on the choice of venue, but Kim Han-jung of the country’s ruling Democratic Party, who was briefed by Kang, told journalists that the location will be fixed within a month.

The Singapore summit in June marked a historic first meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States, yet the pair have made little progress towards the vague denuclearisation commitments they made at that meet.

Despite this, Kim Jong-ha, dean of Hannam University’s Graduate School of National Defence and Strategy in Daejeon, South Korea, thinks one of the contenders has a clear advantage.

“Singapore is an area of influence of China. This means that the US is considering that they will not alienate China [with such a choice],” said Kim.

It cost the city state about US$12 million to host the previous summit, most of which went to security and included the Kim delegation’s hotel bill.

“Singapore taxpayers will have legitimate questions if a similar sum is to be coughed up a second time,” said Tan, of Singapore Management University.

South Korean media have speculated that Vietnam might be the preferred location for a second summit, particularly the central coastal city of Da Nang.

Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based international relations lecturer, said Vietnam could hold symbolic appeal for both sides.

“Vietnam would be symbolic in some ways, so maybe it’s attractive for that reason,” he said, referencing the country’s protracted war with the US and its economic opening up to the world during the 1980s.

The primary concern, however, would be that logistics, transport, and communications were “convenient and secure for both parties”, he said.

In December, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho met Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi, fuelling speculation that Pyongyang could be looking to emulate the Southeast Asian nation’s economic engagement with the world.

Vietnam is an ideal place for the US and North Korea to meet
Vu Minh Khuong

His visit followed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s in June during which he called on Kim to “seize the moment” and replicate Hanoi’s economic reforms.

“Vietnam is an ideal place for the US and North Korea to meet. It sends a strong strategic message to the world that both sides are committed to making change,” said Vu Minh Khuong, associate professor at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

He said Vietnam would be the ideal choice for a summit because it is a living example of how a country can prosper after normalising its relationship with the US.

“Choosing Vietnam shows that both sides are thinking about the future and not worrying about the current problems,” Vu said.