North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is due to arrive in Singapore around late afternoon on Sunday and will have his own official programme that could include a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, sources told the South China Morning Post.
If confirmed, this would mean that both Kim and US President Donald Trump would be in Singapore for their historic summit early and this could help both in their preparations, another source said.
“As of tonight, we were told Mr Kim will be here on Sunday evening but the situation is fast-moving,” the source said on Saturday.
A separate source said Kim would arrive on an Air Koryo flight but the Post has not been able to independently verify this information.
On Sunday morning, the Singapore government confirmed through a statement that Lee would meet with Kim on Sunday and with Trump on Monday.
Earlier, the White House said Trump would leave the G7 summit in Canada before its conclusion, departing Quebec at 10.30am on Saturday and going directly to Singapore, according to a statement from his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump said his summit with Kim represented “a one-time” chance to forge peace between the US and North Korea as he prepared to leave the G7 talks in Canada and fly to Singapore on Saturday.
“It’s unknown territory in the truest sense but I really feel confident,” he said. “I feel that Kim Jong-un wants to do something great for his people and he has that opportunity ... It’s a one-time shot,” he told reporters, adding that the North Koreans had been working “very well with us” in the build-up to Tuesday’s summit.
The US president also said he would know “within a minute” if Kim was serious about giving up his nuclear weapons.
Several members of Kim’s delegation were already in Singapore ahead of the summit and they have decided their leader will stay at the St Regis Hotel because of a “smaller security risk exposure”, according to a diplomatic source.
It is believed the North Korean leader’s delegation had previously been looking at the Fullerton Hotel as another option for Kim. Both hotels are Singaporean-owned, and Kim had expressly not wanted to stay at an American- or Western-owned hotel.
It is also understood that the hotels – the US president will stay at the Shangri-La – will not absorb the cost of the North Korean and American delegations’ involvement in the summit, contrary to speculation.
On Saturday, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who had just returned from a lightning visit to Pyongyang, was also asked about the cost of hosting the summit. While he did not have specific figures, he confirmed that Singapore was extending hospitality to the North Koreans – as it would for any state visit – but they would have to foot some of their own costs.
“I give you this assurance, we will make sure every dollar is spent appropriately, and ultimately this is our contribution to world peace, our contribution and investment in our bilateral relations with both the US and DPRK,” he said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name.
Logistically, a state visit by Kim and a meeting with the head of government, in this case Lee, would meet the protocol of host states paying for the costs of a visit, according to a South Korean official.
On Saturday evening, cars ferrying members of the North Korean delegation were seen at the St Regis. Yellow barricades had been set up on the roads around it earlier in the day, and grey fences had been installed opposite the hotel, while reporters and photographers gathered in the lobby and outside.
Meanwhile at the Shangri-La Hotel, yellow barricades had also gone up along with a sign saying, “Police checks, comply with police orders”.
At the Capella Hotel, where the two leaders will meet, an employee was stationed by the entrance turning away tourists, while a green truck blocked the driveway as a dozen workers installed a security checkpoint with night-vision equipment to scan vehicles.
The venue, including guest rooms and restaurants, has been closed to the public since Friday and a hotel official said only that “reservations will resume from next weekend”.
Brand new surveillance cameras had also been installed covering all directions at the three hotels.
With security arrangements well under way for the summit aimed at ending decades of hostility on the Korean peninsula, it was still unclear how Trump and Kim would actually get to the talks that begin at 9am on Tuesday.
North Korea would have asked Singapore to offer Kim and his delegates “the same level of top security that China has provided them in the past”, according to a former Kim family bodyguard.
Lee Yun-keol worked for the North Korean Guard Command personal security unit before he defected to South Korea in 2005, providing insight into the reclusive nation’s security protocols.
Now head of the North Korean Strategic Information Service Centre in Seoul, Lee said the leader’s security was always a top priority, especially as Kim had begun travelling abroad.
Kim’s first overseas trip as leader in March was shrouded in secrecy to maintain his safety – the same approach taken by his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung. He arrived by armoured train in Beijing, where he secretly met Chinese President Xi Jinping amid tight security, with roads closed as what was later confirmed as his motorcade of limousines passed through the city.
Footage of Kim’s historic meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the truce village of Panmunjom in April meanwhile showed the North Korean leader being driven in his Mercedes-Benz S-class limousine back over the border during the lunch break – with 12 bodyguards running alongside the car.
China had been asked to “increase the number of security guards placed along the railway” for the March visit, according to Lee. But he said while Pyongyang may also ask for more guards at Singapore’s Changi Airport, the security task would be relatively difficult with “the whole world watching” his arrival.
At least three US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft landed at the Singapore Air Force Paya Lebar base on Thursday, according to local Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao. They are believed to have transported the Marine One and Army One helicopters used by the president.
While Trump “is fully capable of bringing even the whole White House to Singapore, this is a problem for Kim”, said a diplomat from an Asian country who asked not be named.
If Kim does not arrive on an Air Koryo flight, he is expected to travel on the Chammae-1, which is referred to as North Korea’s Air Force Un. With a range of about 10,000km, the four-engine, modified Soviet jet Ilyushin Il-62M will be able to make a non-stop journey from North Korea to Singapore. Other details remain unclear, although local media reported on Saturday that a cargo flight had arrived from the North carrying food supplies and vehicles.
The government has meanwhile issued advisories to residents about road closures in Singapore from Sunday to Thursday. Four vehicles – bulletproof and bombproof black BMW 7 Series sedans used to transport “non-citizens” taking part in the summit or related events – have been exempted from certain traffic rules, including speed regulations, seat belt requirements and the use of lights until the end of the month, according to local media.
There has been speculation over who these “non-citizens” would be since the United States typically flies in the presidential limousine and a backup for such occasions – a General Motors-licensed heavily armoured special model known as “The Beast” – as well as helicopters, telecoms gear and even motorcade vehicles.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse