by Augustine Low
The eyes of the world will be on Singapore for the Trump-Kim summit next week.
And on the lips of many has been the question: Why Singapore?
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan explained it this way: “We did not put our hand up, but we were asked. The Americans approached us first. The North Koreans subsequently came to us.”
The foreign media, however, seems to be besotted with one potential factor which could have swung it in Singapore’s favour. CNBC said it asked the White House “whether limits on protests in Singapore played a role in its choice of Singapore.”
The White House official did not respond directly to the question, only saying that Washington has “conveyed our views and believe in freedom of the press.”
The “limits on protests” factor is no doubt just an idea floated by the foreign media.
The explanation by the White House is less sinister: “Singapore was selected because they have been willing to hold it, and because they have diplomatic relations with both the U.S. and North Korea. They are one of the few countries that have relationships with both countries.”
It’s interesting that the official specified Singapore’s willingness to hold the summit. The notion all along has been that any country would jump at the opportunity to play host, because being asked to do so is such a great honour. So it leaves the door open that there may actually be countries which turn down the opportunity to play host.
At the end of the day, though, it’s probably Singapore’s willingness to make friends with anybody which sealed the deal. Singapore does not judge or choose. It is friendly to all countries, even North Korea (diplomatic relations since 1975), a long isolated, totalitarian country which only has had a few friends.
But you never know what happens next. Suddenly, a pariah state like North Korea wants to reform and be a darling of the international community, and Singapore’s strategy of being friends with everybody, and closing the door on no one, hits the jackpot.
Sticking with gambling parlance, it’s called hedging our bets. It’s a strategy that from time to time pays dividends for the Little Red Dot.