As President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet this week they are headed to a small island nation on the other side of the world. Trump will not be going to North Korea, and Kim will not be visiting the White House. Instead, they'll go to one of the few places where both of them have diplomatic relations. Singapore is where the two will be meeting, and it is located in the Southeast Asia region between Malaysia and Indonesia.
To find it, spin the globe to the Indian Ocean, put your finger on the Equator, follow it east and look for the tiny island nation. The total size of Singapore is just 278 square miles; that's about a fourth the size of Rhode Island.
That begs the question of why to have the summit there. You might think that North Korea diplomatically is completely isolated, but that is not the case. There are 164 countries that have diplomatic relations with the North.
What is true is that Singapore is one of the few places that is officially neutral — kind of like Switzerland — and located close enough to North Korea for Kim to feel comfortable going, experts suggested.
“In a six-hour flight radius from Pyongyang, there are few cities that can offer the same level of familiarity, a high level of security, and still be seen as neutral to both parties,” Geoffrey See, who founded a company that teaches Western business methods to North Koreans, told The New York Times. “Security is clearly on top of the North Korean elite’s mind, and their making a highly visible trip this far is in itself a rarity,” he told The Times.
That safety plays into where on the island the two leaders will be meeting. Trump and Kim's talks will be on Sentosa island, an exclusive resort area. In addition to its location — off the southern coast of the main island — there are new rules in place to keep things in order. Some specific rules keep protesters away.
The New York Times reported that "law and order" is the name of the game on the island. Items including drone, bullhorns, spray paint, and even banners have all reportedly been prohibited near where the two are meeting. And all protests are highly regulated in Singapore — everything requires a permit from the government.
Another area of Singapore that has drawn some attention is where the two are staying. It is believed that Kim is at the St. Regis hotel. A large North Korean security presence is there and tourists trying to take pictures have been stopped. Trump, meanwhile, is at the Shangri-La, just half a mile away. Both are on the main island. The area around where the two are staying is also a high security area.
Singapore is happy to host the summit. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that it would provide "publicity" to the island nation. "The fact that we have been chosen as the site of the meeting, we did not ask for it ... it says something about Singapore relations with the parties ... and our standing in the international community," Lee told Channel NewsAsia.
He also added that he was hopeful about the outcome, and any positive movement being associated with Singapore. It's going to cost Singapore $20 million — at least. "When the two sides asked us to host the meeting, we couldn't say no. We have to step up and we can. We are capable of doing it, we have put some resources into it, but we can do a good job," Lee told Channel NewsAsia.
Singapore may be small, but it's taking a large role on the international stage these days.