Asia-Pacific News

Singapore shelled out $15 million for the Trump-Kim summit. Some question that expense

Key Points
  • Singapore not only played host to U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's summit on June 12, but the country also shelled out $15 million for the event.
  • Singapore's prime minister said the Southeast Asian nation was willing to bear the cost "for a good cause."
  • The money went into security, operations and the luxury hotel stay for the North Korean contingent.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) meets Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (R) on June 10, 2018 in Singapore.
Ministry of Communications and Information Singapore | Getty Images

The tiny island-state of Singapore in Southeast Asia not only hosted the historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, but the wealthy country also racked up a 20 million-Singapore-dollar ($15 million) bill.

"It is a cost we are willing to pay," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told local press on Sunday.

The summit would prove to be a positive for Singapore, Lee said, in terms of the country's reputation, standing and "how people look at us."

"It gives us publicity. The fact that we have been chosen as the site of the meeting — we did not ask for it, but we were asked and we agreed — says something about Singapore's relations with the parties, with America, with North Korea, also our standing in the international community," he added.

Singapore is one of the few countries in the world that has relationships with both the U.S. and North Korea.

The money spent by the city-state went in part toward catering to the needs of over 2,500 journalists covering the event, who were set up in a building usually for the country's annual Formula 1 race. About 300 public officers staffed the center around the clock over three days.

Singaporean funds also went toward paying for the North Koreans' luxury hotel stay, according to a government official.

"If you calculate the price of everything in this world, you will miss out on the real important things. And in this case, what is important is that the summit is held, and we are hosting it, not extravagantly, but with due consideration to costs, but making sure operational requirements are met," Lee said.

Some in Singapore were not so convinced, however, taking to social media to complain about picking up the tab for the event in what is already one of the world's most expensive cities.

After all, the State Department even made a gaffe about the city-state's sovereignty: It mistakenly described it as part of neighboring Malaysia in a note issued online, sparking snide comments on social media, Reuters reported. The error was promptly corrected.

Singapore was once part of Malaysia, but the two split acrimoniously in 1965.

Despite the grumbling about the costs and inconveniences brought by the historic event, there were also many Singaporeans who saw the hosting of the historic event as a massive marketing and publicity coup.

CIMB-GK Securities analyst Lim Siew Khee said in a research note last week that there will be a positive multiplier effect on Singapore's hospitality, services and office sectors.

For a start, visitor arrivals for about five days spanning the summit were expected to have increased by thousands, as government delegates and security entourages also arrived alongside Trump, Kim and the throngs of journalists.

Every tourist to Singapore contributes about $1,500 in overall tourism receipts for an average of 3.5 days, Lim noted.

Ahead of the summit, businesses in Singapore were already cashing into the summit fever, organizing events and selling themed merchandise.

WATCH: Singapore hits the jackpot for Trump-Kim summit

Singapore hits the jackpot for Trump-Kim summit
Singapore hits the jackpot for Trump-Kim summit