It's not home-field advantage, but summit site Singapore offers benefits to both President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump said Thursday that his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place June 12 in Singapore.
  • Singapore, a wealthy island city-state located just off the southern tip of Malaysia, is one of the U.S. military's most committed partners in the Pacific region.
Singapore skyline.
Andrew Too Boon Tan | Moment | Getty Images

Singapore is the ideal location for the unprecedented meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, experts said after Trump's announcement via Twitter on Thursday.

The wealthy island city-state, located just off the southern tip of Malaysia in Southeast Asia, is trusted by governments and businesses across the globe, and is also one of the United States' most committed military partners. The U.S. Navy has had a presence there since 1968 and was granted access to some Singapore military facilities in 1990.

But it's also a neutral enough site to work for North Korea, as well.

"Singapore has been a great friend to the U.S., but also Singapore has carefully worked to be a friend to all, which has earned it trust in capitals around the world," former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman told the Associated Press.

The city-state has historically "been an honest broker between East and West," Adelman said, adding that it has experience hosting high-level meetings.

Kim Jong Un and Trump summit to be held June 12 in Singapore
Kim Jong Un and Trump summit to be held June 12 in Singapore

Singapore was an early leading choice of top administration officials due to its neutrality in both politics and geography. What's more, it is a large U.S. trading partner and the second-largest Asian investor.

Singapore is also the regional headquarters for several American companies including Google parent Alphabet, Facebook, Walt Disney Company, Procter & Gamble and Chevron.

The site's relative neutrality may also insulate the Trump-Kim discussions from surveillance from China, which has played a role in arranging apparently thawed relations between longtime antagonists North Korea and the U.S.

"There is no way you could have these talks in China, as Chinese intelligence would listen to any sidebar conversations Kim and Trump might have," Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told CNBC.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and the Republic of Singapore navy frigates RSS Formidable and RSS Stalwart are seen underway in the Singapore Strait.
Department of Defense photo

China is North Korea's most crucial ally on the world stage.

Having the summit there also would likely provide better optics for Trump than traveling to the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea – a location the American president once floated as a possibility.

"It's better than the American president coming to Kim Jong Un's doorstep," Eurasia Group CEO Ian Bremmer said, adding that the first-ever summit between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president is "set up to go well."

It works for Kim, too

Singapore is also a "great location" for the reclusive leader from North Korea, according to Tom Plant, a specialist in nuclear and proliferation issues at London's Royal United Services Institute.

North Korea's Kim Jong Un
KCNA | Reuters

"Kim will be on friendly territory, not hostile territory. But he wouldn't be on home turf," Plant told the Associated Press.

Trump revealed the location and date for the historic meeting just hours after three American men held prisoner in North Korea arrived at Joint Base Andrews with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


Trump said on their arrival that he had high hopes for the highly anticipated meeting, which would be the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

"I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful," Trump told reporters. "My proudest achievement will be, this is part of it, when we denuclearize that entire peninsula."

But can they reach a real agreement?

But some observers aren't as optimistic as the president. Joshua Pollack, senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., told CNBC that Kim and Trump "are less likely to have a meeting of the minds."

Pollack said that the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, coupled with doubts of Kim's willingness to denuclearize, could leave both parties unsatisfied.

"The summit may result in a joint statement with some fine principles, but I don't expect detailed commitments," Pollack said. "And I don't think the North Koreans see the U.S. as their main or most important interlocutor at the moment. That, rather, is South Korea."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.