'Where is Singapore?': Trump-Kim summit a public relations coup for tiny city state

US President Donald Trump’s motorcade travels out of Sentosa after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as photographed from Propeller Rooftop Bar at Bay Hotel Singapore.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - As images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un strolling by revellers at a rooftop bar the night before an unprecedented meeting with President Donald Trump circulated around social media sites, US citizens started asking "Where is Singapore?".

Singapore, the tiny South-east Asian city state that played host to nuclear talks earlier this week, was the most searched term on Internet search engine Google in the United States on Monday (June 11) with over two million hits.

Related searches during those 24 hours included "Where is Singapore", "Singapore summit" and "time in Singapore".

Blanket media coverage on Monday included Kim's surprise tour of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and its surrounding gardens, and the first hours of the meeting with Trump in the resort island of Sentosa.

Kim Jong Un goes on night stroll on Singapore's waterfront

  • The usually closely-guarded North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke away from summit preparations Monday for a night-time stroll on the Singapore waterfront, even posing for selfies with the city-state's foreign minister.
  • The picture posted online by Vivian Balakrishnan as the group toured a series of major sites, less than 12 hours ahead of Kim's meeting with US President Donald Trump, is the first such public image of the North's leader.
  • In his own country, his appearances are normally carefully managed, with any foreigners present having to go through hours-long security checks beforehand.
  • Kim was spotted walking inside, with his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong also part of the group.
  • "He said Singapore is clean and beautiful and every building is stylish as he heard of in the past, adding he is going to learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future," the KCNA report added.
  • At the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel, casino and convention centre, Kim visited the high-level SkyPark that links the three 55-storey towers of the complex.

Singapore said it spent S$20 million on the summit, a figure that drew the ire of some citizens. However, marketing experts say the coverage generated from the event could be worth more than 10 times that.

"It places Singapore on the map for international audiences," said Oliver Chong, executive director, communications and marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board.

Tourism contributes around 4 per cent to Singapore's gross domestic product per annum. Visitor arrivals hit a record 17.4 million last year boosted by China, its top market, and India.

But just months ago, lifestyle magazine Time Out ranked Singapore among the world's least exciting cities.

Andrew Darling, CEO and founder of communications agency West Pier Ventures, said it would cost more than S$200 million to generate the kind of publicity Singapore has received so far by hosting the summit.

Media intelligence firm Meltwater said the coverage over the three days around the summit equated to US$270 million (S$360.5 million) of advertising, while the month leading up to it was worth US$767 million.

"The Trump-Kim Summit has arguably been the single most important event that brought Singapore to the attention of the most people around the world," said Jason Tan of media advertising agency Zenith Singapore.

"For many Asians, Singapore as the choice of destination reinforces our image as an efficient and safe country. For Americans who might not be as familiar with Asia, the summit definitely brought Singapore into the global spotlight."

Still, even some who should know better struggled to accurately place Singapore - known as the Little Red Dot in reference to its depiction on a map.

The US State Department mistakenly made Singapore a part of neighbouring Malaysia in a note issued in connection with the summit, drawing a slew of snide comments on social media.

When Trump met Kim: A Singapore story

  • Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.
  • It was a meeting many would have thought unimaginable just months ago.
  • The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.
  • Prior to the meeting held at Capella Hotel in Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, Trump had said that he would know "within the first minute", whether any agreement would be possible.
  • The watching world is not sure if it's the start of a beautiful, budding "bromance", but here's a look at how the world's most talked-about first date unfolded.
  • Their handshake reportedly lasted for 12 long seconds (though still 7 seconds shorter than his memorable handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe).
  • Trump also reached out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.
  • According to a body language expert Karen Leong, the first 60 seconds showed both leaders seeking to take charge in their encounter. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command. "Their handshake seems to be between peers," she said.
  • "Trump seemed to be very aware of this, that he needed to up the stakes and be seen that he is the leader."
  • Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.
  • Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.
  • The US President, who is more than twice Kim's age, then appeared to lead the way to the library where they held a one-on-one meeting, placing his hand on the North Korean leader's counterpart's back.
  • Kim also patted the US president' arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter, said Leong.
  • The leaders appeared to share a few light-hearted moments as they walked down a corridor to the hotel's library.
  • However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.
  • As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim.
  • Mr Kim then said through a translator: “The way to come to here was not easy.The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”
  • After their closed door one-on-one talks, the pair continued with explanded bilateral talks with their delegation. Trump was flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.
  • Sitting across the table from the US team were North Korean leader Kim, Kim Yong-chol, first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Su-yong, Workers’ Party vice chairman on international affairs.
  • Thereafter, the two leaders attended a working lunch with their respective delegations at Capella Hotel.
  • On the lunch menu: Main courses include beef short rib confit, served with potato dauphinois and steamed broccoli; sweet and sour crispy pork and fried rice with an "XO" chilli sauce as well as a Korean dish called "daegu jorim", which is a soy braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.
  • Post-lunch, Kim and Trump then went for a leisurely stroll around the hotel grounds.
  • He also said talks had gone "better than anybody could have expected", and indicated that they were heading for a "signing", but did not divulge any details of the agreement.
  • During their walk, Trump unexpectedly gave Kim a peek into his super limo, nicknamed "The Beast".
  • But they did not get to hop on to go for a joyride, as commentators had hoped.
  • The pair met to sign an agreement, details of which were not revealed during the signing. Trump said: "We're signing a very important document, pretty comprehensive document, and we've had a really great time together, a great relationship... More will be discussed at a press conference soon."
  • When asked what he learnt about Kim, Trump said that he is "a very talented man", and that "he loves his country very much".
  • Mr Trump also described Mr Kim as a "very worthy, very smart negotiator".
  • According to sources after the signing, the two leaders pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.
  • The signatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".
  • Kim places a hand on Trump's back as they leave the room after the signing.
  • After the signing, the pair walked out for another round of photo-taking.
  • Reports say Mr Kim departed Singapore on a chartered Air China flight at 11.20pm and midnight on Tuesday, while Trump left on Air Force One earlier at 6.25pm.
  • At 4pm, Trump held a press conference on the summit outcome and details on the agreement signed.
  • "We signed a joint statement that is an unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of North Korea," he says.
  • The Capella Hotel on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, provided the backdrop for the historic summit.
  • Trump's motorcade arriving at Sentosa on Tuesday (June 12) morning.
  • Setting the stage ready for the handshake that will be seen across the world.