Sunday 21 October 2018

North Korea not expected to foot bill at Trump-Kim summit in Singapore

The Trump administration has reportedly been ‘seeking a discreet way’ to help pay Kim Jong Un’s hotel bill.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump (Lee Jin-man/AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump (Lee Jin-man/AP)

By Eric Talmadge, Associated Press

Speculation is growing over how North Korea will handle the costs for Kim Jong Un’s June 12 meeting with US President Donald Trump.

It comes after a Washington Post report cited two US officials suggesting the Trump administration has been “seeking a discreet way” to help pay Mr Kim’s hotel bill.

When the North Korean leader and Mr Trump hold their summit at an exclusive venue in Singapore, one of the priciest destinations in Asia, they will no doubt run up quite a bill.

ipanews_de6c3eb6-82dc-4d6e-ba50-23bd152c62d1_embedded231667821
Singapore (Steve Parsons/PA)

And if past precedent is any indication, expect Pyongyang to pay as little of it as possible.

The report suggested host nation Singapore might take care of it.

But what exactly needs to be paid for is not yet clear.

There are the costs of the summit venue and the hotels, with one reported option, the Fullerton, coming with a 6,000 dollar-a-night (£4,480) price tag for its presidential suite.

ipanews_de6c3eb6-82dc-4d6e-ba50-23bd152c62d1_embedded774736
The Fullerton hotel in Singapore (APTN via AP)

But that would hardly break the North Korean bank.

While Mr Kim could decide to stay the night, or maybe even two, he might also be in a hurry to get back home, in which case the North would not need a room so much as a base camp.

North Korea has an embassy in Singapore, but that is unlikely to be good enough to meet the logistical and security demands of a full-on summit.

The North may want to send a large delegation to accompany Mr Kim and provide its own security.

If there are any feelers going out about cost-sharing, that is a likely topic.

But it would be more of a sweetener than a necessity.

Whatever the venue, it is debatable why an outside party would need to pay.

North Korea’s government, which is no stranger to hosting lavish events such as military parades and party congresses of its own, has ample funds to cover important meetings for Mr Kim.

While highly speculative – Mr Kim is even more averse to divulging details about his personal wealth than Mr Trump – the North Korean leader is believed by some foreign experts to be worth well over one billion dollars and have access to billions more thanks to the full backing of his country.

But as history has shown, summits with the Kim family do not come cheap.

Seoul reportedly spent somewhere in the range of five million dollars (£3.7 million) to cover the costs of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s first summit with Mr Kim in April – a day-long affair that was held in publicly owned buildings on the South Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone.

ipanews_de6c3eb6-82dc-4d6e-ba50-23bd152c62d1_embedded774647
Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in walk together through an honour guard at the border village of Panmunjom (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP)

And though this falls in a category all of its own, former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung’s administration secretly paid 500 million dollars just to get Kim Jong Un’s father to agree to the first-ever North-South Korea summit in 2000.

The South Korean president won that year’s Nobel Peace Prize, before the payment was made public.

One of his aides was convicted and went to prison.

Hosting North Koreans at sports events can also have extra costs attached.

South Korea paid 2.5 million dollars (£1.86 million) to cover the costs of more than 400 North Koreans, only 22 of whom were athletes, at the Pyeongchang Games in February.

The Olympics were the first big step of Mr Kim’s ongoing diplomatic campaign, which he announced with great fanfare in January.

But they were not the first time Seoul had shelled out in the name of Korean unity.

For the Asian Games in Busan in 2002, it gave about 1.3 million (£970,000) dollars, then 836,000 dollars for a Universiade in 2003 and another 385,000 dollars for the Asian Games in 2014.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has denied the US would pay for North Korea in Singapore and said Washington was not asking anyone else to either.

In keeping with normal practice, Singapore, as the host nation, will have to pay out for general security and various other expenses.

Singapore announced on Monday that it is declaring part of its city centre a “special event area” from June 10 to 14 for the summit.

The designation will allow for greater security in the area, which is near the US embassy as well as several hotels, including the Shangri-La.

ipanews_de6c3eb6-82dc-4d6e-ba50-23bd152c62d1_embedded774730
The Shangri-la hotel (Yong Teck Lim/AP)

The Shangri-La has been mentioned as a possible venue for the talks due to its experience as the site of an annual security conference that draws defence officials from around the globe.

Singapore’s defence minister Ng Eng Hen confirmed the country would foot some costs, while steering clear of the details or whether Pyongyang or Washington had made any specifics requests.

“We want to contribute in our small way so that this summit can occur,” he told reporters.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has also offered to chip in a share of the million dollars it was awarded for winning the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News