Placid Singapore braces for Trump-Kim storm

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SINGAPORE, June 1, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Singapore hotel rooms are being
snapped up, police are preparing to lock down the city and thousands of
journalists are set to jet in for the greatest media circus on Earth — the
US-North Korea summit.

Top officials are scrambling to salvage the historic meeting between
President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un planned for June 12
in the city-state.

If the summit — already cancelled once by Trump before plans got back on
track — does go ahead, then tiny, placid Singapore will be the unlikely
ground zero for one of the biggest geopolitical events of recent times.

The delegations of US and North Korean officials, along with their security
details, are expected to be huge. But they are likely to pale in comparison
to the gigantic media pack set to swarm the tropical city-state.

Some 3,000 people are expected to apply for media accreditation, sources
involved in planning the event who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.

It should easily eclipse the contingent of journalists at the last
comparable event in Singapore, the 2015 meeting between Chinese President Xi
Jinping and Taiwan’s then-leader Ma Ying-jeou. Hundreds of journalists
witnessed that meeting.

– Media invasion –

There was a foretaste of the coming invasion this week as reporters camped
out at the upscale Fullerton hotel to get a glimpse of Kim Chang Son, Kim’s
de facto chief of staff, who is in Singapore to lay the ground for the
meeting.

Meanwhile top hotels rumoured to be summit venues — the frontrunner is the
five-star Shangri-La, where the Xi-Ma meeting took place — are almost fully
booked.

But while world leaders hold their breath amid rising hopes a summit could
lead to Pyongyang permanently abandoning its nuclear weapons programme, some
Singaporeans were more concerned about the potential disruption to their
peaceful lives.

Chang Anthony posted on Facebook that the meeting in the squeaky-clean
city-state — calm and stable to the point of sometimes being mocked as
boring — was “going to cause us inconvenience”.

“Can government declare a (public holiday) for this special day?” he asked.

“Oh crap, two most unpopular leaders in the world coming here for world
peace,” lamented Timothy Klein on the site.

Security will certainly be onerous, with large numbers of police set to be
deployed and extensive road closures expected around the summit venue.

– Free drinks for delegates –

But Lim Tai Wei, a fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East
Asia Institute, played down fears the event could cause widespread
disruption.

“You have to bear in mind that the country has the experience of hosting
the Xi-Ma meeting in 2015, and also previously having hosted past US
presidents,” he told AFP.

While some may lament the sudden influx of media and diplomats, businesses
see it as an opportunity.

In a city famous for the “Singapore Sling” cocktail, watering hole Escobar
is proving the country’s bartenders can still rise to the occasion with two
special summit drinks.

The “Trump” is a blue, bourbon-based cocktail while the “Kim” is a red-
coloured cocktail with soju, a Korean liquor, as its base. Both cost Sg$12.60
($9.40), a reference to the summit’s expected date.

The bar — named after drug kingpin Pablo Escobar — will also have a “US-
North Korea showdown” where customers who order a tray of 20 shots get to
compete in a game of “rock, paper, scissors” while wearing gloves emblazoned
with the countries’ flags.

And there is a special treat for weary summit participants.

“If you can show that you’re a delegate attending the event, I’ll buy you a
round of drinks on the house,” owner Stan Sri Ganesh told AFP.

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