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6 things to know about Singapore before Trump and Kim Jong-un meet there

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

President Donald Trump said that his historic summit with Kim Jong Un will take place in Singapore on June 12. Here are some relavant facts about the city-state:

1. Until November 2017, Singapore was North Korea’s seventh largest trading partner

In November 2017, the United States imposed North Korea-related sanctions on a number of individuals and companies, including two firms in Singapore. Until that point, Singapore was North Korea’s seventh largest trading partner. In 2015, bilateral trade was worth $29 million. After the sanctions, Singapore’s customs office said that the country will ‘prohibit all commercially traded goods from, or to, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).’

2. While Singapore doesn’t host any U.S. military bases, the American Air Force and the Navy have had a presence there since 1968

Singapore is at a strategic point in Southeast Asia, lying between Indonesia and Malaysia while serving as a gateway to the Far East. Because of its location, US Navy has had a presence in the country since 1968 to “coordinate maintenance of US Navy ships throughout Southeast Asia.” There’s also a small number of US Air Force staff working at the Paya Lebar Air Base.

Singapore on a map.


3. Singapore’s military has very close ties with the Israeli Defense Force

Singapore has maintained very close military ties with Israel since 1969. The country hosts hundreds of former Israeli military and intelligence officers as well as major Israeli security corporations (such as Israel Aerospace Industries).

In a 2016 visit to Israel, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong remarked how grateful he was for Israel’s support, without which Singapore’s armed forces could not have “grown its capabilities, deterred threats, defended our island, and reassured Singaporeans and investors that Singapore was secure and had a future.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) stands next to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as they deliver joint statements in Jerusalem April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

4. China briefly seized Singaporean military equipment in 2017 

Early in 2017, nine Singaporean armored vehicles were seized in transit to Taiwan by Hong Kong authorities. The vehicles, which belonged to the country’s military, were Terrex troop carriers. They were returned — but only after a diplomatic row.

At that time, foreign policy experts suggested that China returned the vehicles as an act of goodwill to mitigate tensions amid rising geopolitical uncertainty caused by the nascent Trump administration.

5. Singapore’s president is a Muslim woman

Earlier this year, Singapore held elections for a new president. The winning candidate was 63-year-old Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament from the Muslim Malay minority. Yacob is the country’s first ethnic Malay president in 47 years – and also the first woman.

Britain’s Prince Charles meets Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob at the Istana in Singapore October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

6. Singapore hosts an annual high-level security summit

Every year since 2002, Singapore has played host to a high-level security conference called the Shangri-La Dialogue, which is held at the Shangri La Hotel. The Dialogue attracts all the senior security officials from around the world and is known for its extremely high security and caution.

Last year, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis attended the conference. This year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to deliver the keynote speech.

READ MORE: Trump says release of detainees proves Kim Jong Un wants to bring North Korea ‘into the real world’