Singapore proud to be at the center of summit spotlight
City-state spending $15 million to host Trump, Kim
SINGAPORE – As the spotlight landed on this tiny nation of 5.5 million ahead of the historic summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, many Singaporeans seemed to be taking the massive operation in stride.
On Monday, crowds of journalists and curious locals gathered around the hotels where Trump and Kim were staying, while most other Singaporeans went about their daily routines – going to and from work, shopping and jogging past security checkpoints and police stationed with shotguns and rifles.
Some locals expressed a sense of pride about their city-state being able to pull off such a major event.
“I think people here are happy about the summit,” said Zainudin Deen, a financial consultant, who was walking nearby the Shangri-La Hotel, where Trump and his entourage were staying. “As the host nation, we’re proud. We were able to set up the security for this with short notice.”
At the nearby St. Regis hotel, where Kim Jong Un and his delegation were staying, a growing crowd formed Monday evening as word got around that the North Korean leader would be coming out to go on a nighttime minicity tour of Singapore.
Alan Heng, 55, hung around with his brother near the hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive North Korean leader while enjoying the electric atmosphere.
“Everybody is excited,” he said. “It’s a big international event, and it’s putting Singapore in the spotlight. There are small inconveniences, but it’s worth it.”
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared that sentiment, saying Sunday that the $15 million the summit was costing the country to host was money well spent.
“It’s our contribution to an international endeavor which is in our profound interest,” Lee told reporters Sunday at the massive international media center that the city-state set up to accommodate the more than 2,500 journalists covering the event.
Lee said about half of the amount is going to security.
“It is a cost we are willing to pay,” Lee said. “(The summit) gives us publicity. The fact that we have been chosen as the site of the meeting – we did not ask for it, but we were asked, and we agreed – says something about Singapore’s relations with the parties, with America, with North Korea, also our standing in the international community.”
Singapore is footing the bill for Kim and the North Korean delegation, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told the BBC on Monday.
Of course, there have been efforts to cash in on the summit. The Singapore
Mint unveiled three commemorative coins for the event, in gold, silver and nickel, featuring clasped hands under the North Korean and American flags on the front and the inscription “World Peace” on the reverse.
And the Trump and Kim impersonators who captured media attention at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February turned up in Singapore for an event where fans could take selfies with them for a price.
Still, some other locals took a bigger-picture perspective on Singapore’s role in the historic summit.
“It’s very great to host such a big event,” said D.M. Lim, an office administrator who stopped to join the crowd outside St. Regis hotel on her way home from work. “It’s good for Singapore, but the main point is, maybe we can help the two sides make peace, and that would be great for the world.”
Security officials watch Kim Jong Un cross a bridge.
Curious onlookers wait for the motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on Monday.