After an international scramble to salvage the briefly canceled summit between the U.S. and North Korea, it appears President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are on track to meet in Singapore next week for their historic tête-à-tête.
But the delicate diplomatic dance between the two nations is far from over. The latest question facing U.S. officials: Who will pay for Kim’s hotel room?
As The New York Times noted on Sunday, Pyongyang has been known to compel other governments or organizations to foot the bill when its officials travel abroad.
During the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, for instance, the South Korean government earmarked about $2.6 million to cover the travel expenses of members of the North’s visiting delegation, including a cheering squad, an orchestra and an art troupe, and the International Olympic Committee bankrolled the 22 athletes who represented North Korea at the games.
“These norms were laid in the early 2000s, when Seoul’s so-called sunshine policy took off,” Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at Tufts University, told The Washington Post last week, referring to a rapprochement policy adopted by South Korea. “North Korea can build nukes and ICBMs, but claim they are too poor to pay for foreign travel costs.”
The Post, citing two individuals familiar with talks about logistics for the summit, reported that “the prideful but cash-poor pariah state” was now looking for an outsider to pay for Kim and his entourage’s stay at the five-star Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, which the paper said is the North Korean delegation’s “preferred lodging” for next week’s meeting. A presidential suite at the five-star hotel costs more than $6,000 per night, and a regular room costs upward of $220.
It’s unclear just who will pick up the tab, however ― though there appears to be no shortage of willing sponsors.
The U.S. is “open to covering the costs,” the Post wrote, citing the two individuals, though such a payment would require a sanctions waiver and could cause Pyongyang to lose face.
U.S. officials are thus reportedly mulling whether to ask host nation Singapore to bear some of the costs ― a suggestion that the small but wealthy city-state apparently would be happy to comply with.
Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s defense minister, said on Saturday that the country was willing to pay for some of North Korea’s expenses, though he did not specify how much Singapore was willing to spend or whether it was at Washington’s urging.
“It is a cost that we’re willing to bear to play a small part in this historic meeting,” Ng said without elaboration, according to Reuters.
The State Department denied the reports.
“We are not paying for the DPRK (North Korea) delegation and we are not asking others to do so,” Heather Nauert, the department’s acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, said in a statement.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an anti-nuclear-weapon organization, has also expressed willingness to cover North Korea’s summit-related expenses, saying over the weekend that it would gladly chip in part of the more than $1 million cash award from its 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to contribute to the landmark event.
“Our movement is committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons, and we recognize that this historic summit is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to work for peace and nuclear disarmament,” ICAN official Akira Kawasaki said in a statement, according to USA Today. “The Nobel Peace Prize included a cash prize, and we are offering funds from the prize to cover the costs for the summit in order to support peace in the Korean Peninsula and a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
In addition to Kim’s hotel room and other budget matters, U.S. and North Korean officials have many logistical details to hammer out before next week’s summit, reported the Times,
“The two sides will be negotiating everything from the site of the meeting to which leader sits where at the table, who is allowed in the room with them, the number of meals and breaks, what to use in a toast between the two leaders (given that Mr. Trump does not drink alcohol) [and] what gifts could be exchanged,” among other issues, the paper wrote.