US trying to find discreet way to pay for Kim’s Singapore hotel

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Washington, June 3 (IANS) As preparations are underway for the historic US-North Korea summit, American officials are trying to solve the logistical issue of who will pay for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s housing at an island resort off the coast of Singapore, a report said.

With its economy weakened from tough sanctions, North Korea is requiring that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: the Fullerton, a neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River, where just one presidential suite costs more than $6,000 per night, The Washington Post reported.

The diplomatically fraught billing issue is just one of numerous logistical concerns being hammered out between two teams led by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin and Kim’s de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang-son, as they strive toward the June 12 meeting.

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After weeks of uncertainty, President Donald Trump called off the summit last week, blaming “open hostility” from North Korea.

But a flurry of diplomacy across two continents got the meeting back on track, and Trump announced on Friday that he would attend as initially planned.

“When it comes to paying for lodging at North Korea’s preferred five-star luxury hotel, the US is open to covering the costs,” informed sources told The Post.

“But it’s mindful that Pyongyang may view a US payment as insulting.”

As a result, US planners are considering asking Singapore, the host country, to pay for the North Korean delegation’s bill.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Saturday did not rule out the possibility that the US would arrange for Singapore’s government to pay for the North Korean delegation’s accommodations, but said Washington “is not paying the costs of accommodations in Singapore for the North Korean delegation”.

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During the PyeongChang Olympics earlier this year, South Korea set aside $2.6 million to cover travel accommodations for a North Korean cheering squad, an art troupe and other members of the visiting delegation.

At the same Games, the International Olympic Committee paid for 22 North Korean athletes to travel to the event.

In 2014, when former US Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. visited North Korea to retrieve two prisoners, his North Korean hosts served him an “elaborate 12-course Korean meal”. The veteran intelligence official insisted that he pay for it.

Figuring out how to pay Pyongyang’s hotel tab will not be the only unusual planning obstacle that comes with hosting an event with the isolated regime, the sources told The Washington Post.

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The country’s outdated and underused Soviet-era aircraft may require a landing in China because of concerns it won’t make the 3,000-mile trip.

Alternatively, the North Koreans might travel in a plane provided by another country.

–IANS

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