Seeing Kim was a historic moment for me, says Singapore resident

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un visits Merlion Park in Singapore ahead of Tuesday’s historic summit with US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2018

Seeing Kim was a historic moment for me, says Singapore resident

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday said hosting the summit will cost 20 million Singapore dollars ($15 million), about half of which will be spent on security.
  • The Gurkha Contingent will be deployed to secure the summit venue. With a reputation for being among the fiercest warriors in the world, the Nepali Gurkhas have since 1949 been recruited as a frontline force in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: Singapore residents braced for major traffic jams and road diversions on Monday as security forces fanned out across the island state ahead of Tuesday’s historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Stringent security measures will be in place until Thursday, police said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday said hosting the summit will cost 20 million Singapore dollars ($15 million), of which about half will be spent on security.

Authorities had warned that there would be roadblocks and increased security checks, especially in marked-out zones where the event will take place and where delegates are expected to stay.

The zones include the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, where the summit will be held, and the St. Regis Hotel, where Kim is staying; and the Shangrila Hotel, where Trump is staying.

Long lines had formed along the streets toward the St. Regis Hotel when Kim arrived on Sunday night with his convoy of more than 20 vehicles, including an ambulance.

Lee Yoonmi, who lives in the St. Regis Residence next to the hotel, was leaving her apartment when she heard that Kim was coming. She waited for more than an hour before seeing him briefly.

“They were so scary,” Lee said of Kim’s bodyguards. “There were so many of them. They were making sure no one takes pictures of him. If they saw anyone take a photo with their phone, they’d immediately come to you and tell you to delete it.”

Lee, who has been living in Singapore for five years, added: “I’m South Korean, so for us this is once in a lifetime, a historic moment for me and for Singapore.”

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Saturday said his country is hard at work making sure the environment is safe and secure for the negotiating parties.

“My staff in the ministry have… all had sleepless nights answering messages from all over the world, addressing very specific requests — it goes far beyond serving coffee and tea,” he said.

Shawn Ho, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Arab News: “Singapore is a very open place. We try to check, but obviously we can’t guarantee that everyone who comes in has the best intentions. There’s always an element of risk.”

But despite the risks, Singapore agreed to host the summit because “it knows that it will contribute to peace and stability in the region and in the world,” said Ho.

Thousands of security personnel are out in force, in what could be one of Singapore’s largest security operations.

They include the armed forces, police and auxiliary forces, many of whom had their annual leave frozen in preparation for the summit.

A special guard force, the Gurkha Contingent, will be deployed to secure the summit venue. With a reputation for being among the fiercest warriors in the world, the Nepali Gurkhas have since 1949 been recruited as a frontline force in Singapore.

Lynette Chan, a teacher whose office is in one of the special zones, said she does not mind the traffic diversions: “It’s a short-term inconvenience for a long-term, big-picture gain.”

She added: “It’s a small part to play in helping to create peace in the region. It’s also good for economic and political stability.”

Eunice Shin, who lives in another zone, said: “It doesn’t inconvenience me too much.” Police and reporters are stationed just across from her building, she added.

“Everyone’s really nice. It’s very peaceful,” she said. “My kids are enjoying it with all the fire trucks around. They’re very impressed because you never see any police in Singapore.”

US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

Some of the 20 ministers, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, pose for a photo prior to the 55th Munich Security Conference in southern Germany, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 50 min 38 sec ago

US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

  • Acting US Defense Secretary Shanahan envisions a ‘bigger and stronger’ coalition to fight Daesh globally

MUNICH: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Friday that the US is committed to defeating Daesh in the Middle East and beyond, but officials said European allies are skeptical of Washington’s pledges.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that he was withdrawing all 2,000 US troops from Syria surprised and rattled allies. US officials have crisscrossed the Middle East in recent weeks to reassure them that Washington remains committed to the region.
Trump’s Syria decision was opposed by top aides, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit, leaving his deputy Shanahan in charge of the Pentagon.
“While the time for US troops on the ground in northeast Syria winds down, the United States remains committed to our coalition’s cause, the permanent defeat of Daesh, both in the Middle East and beyond,” Shanahan said after a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
The meeting included about a dozen defense ministers from the coalition to defeat Daesh. Kurdish-led fighters are battling to capture Daesh’s last major stronghold in Syria, but even without territory, the militant group is widely seen as a continuing threat.
Shanahan said he envisioned a “bigger and stronger” coalition to fight Daesh globally. “We will continue to support our local partners’ ability to stand up to the remnants of Daesh,” he added.
However, European officials said they were given few details during the closed-door meeting in Munich and many questions remain. “We are still trying to understand how the Americans plan to withdraw. I don’t think there is any clarity still,” one European official, speaking on the condition of anonymity said.
Another official said Shanahan did not provide allies with a timeline of the American withdrawal from Syria and allies expressed skepticism during the meeting. A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no commitments were made during the meeting and there was little discussion about timelines.
“These meetings don’t tend to have specific deliverables or decisions, it tends to be more focused on taking stock of where we are,” the US official said.
Trump has said he expects a formal announcement as early as this week that the coalition fighting Daesh has reclaimed all the territory held by the group.
Around 20 ministers including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany will take part in the meeting, according to one source.
US forces are the largest contributors by far to the anti-Daesh coalition and their pullout will leave a vacuum in Syria where major powers are jostling for influence.

Withdrawal issue
“The withdrawal of the American troops from Syria will evidently be at the heart of discussions,” said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly before the meeting.
“Once the so-called caliphate no longer has any territory, the international community will have to guarantee that there will be no resurgence of Daesh in Syria or elsewhere,” her ministry’s statement said.
The end of Daesh territory in Syria is heightening worries about experienced militants and foreign fighters escaping and forming new Daesh cells in Syria or beyond.
Once American forces leave, another complication emerges: The future of areas in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish YPG forces, a key US ally in the fight against militants but a militia branded terrorists by Turkey.