SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan is set to arrive in Pyongyang on Thursday, the Singapore government said, days before it plays host to the leaders of North Korea and the United States at a summit.
Balakrishnan, who went to Washington earlier this week, will meet his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, and the president of the Supreme People’s Assembly and ceremonial president, Kim Yong Nam, during his two-day visit to Pyongyang, a government statement said.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to hold their historic meeting in Singapore on Tuesday next week.
“Obviously, what all of us are hoping for is it would lead to a de-escalation of tension, raise the prospects of peace and for the sake of the North Koreans themselves improve the prospects for economic development,” Balakrishnan told the Straits Times referring to the June 12 summit.
“I don’t think one meeting next week in Singapore can certainly unlock the entire situation on the Korean peninsula,” he said.
The United States and North Korea agreed upon Singapore last month as the venue for the first ever meeting between leaders of the two countries. The White House said then it chose Singapore because it could ensure the security of both leaders and provide a neutral meeting ground.
Balakrishnan also said that it was the United States that had asked Singapore to host the historic event.
Singapore has diplomatic ties with both the United States and North Korea.
The Southeast Asian city-state serves as a regional headquarters for many large U.S. companies and U.S. navy vessels use its port facilities.
Singapore suspended trade relations with the reclusive Northeast Asian state last year following tightened U.N. sanctions over its weapons programme, however, North Korea still operates a small embassy in the city.
In 2008, Singapore sent its then foreign minister, George Yeo, on an official visit to North Korea. During that trip, he toured the Nampo Port and Kaesong industrial zone, but visits by senior officials to the isolated state are rare.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Fathin Ungku; Writing by Sam Holmes; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Simon Cameron-Moore