Trump-Kim summit: Trump thanks Singapore for playing host

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ ANN) - US President meets PM Lee at Istana, expresses positive hopes for summit today

United States President Donald Trump expressed his gratitude yesterday to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for Singapore's role in hosting the summit between the United States and North Korea, saying he appreciated Singapore's "hospitality, professionalism and friendship".

"We have a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I think things can work out very nicely," President Trump told PM Lee as they began their working lunch at the Istana. "Thank you very much."'

Mr Trump arrived at the Istana at noon, accompanied by top aides Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Mr Matthew Pottinger, senior director for Asian affairs at the US National Security Council.

The two leaders first held a one-on-one meeting, where they talked about a wide range of regional and global developments, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). At 12.45pm, they appeared at the banquet hall and shook hands in front of a waiting group of about 30 American and Singaporean journalists, before sitting down to lunch.

Mr Trump and PM Lee discussed ways to ramp up bilateral cooperation on the diplomatic, defence and economic fronts to promote stability and prosperity in the region, said the White House.

Mr Trump also accepted President Halimah Yacob's invitation to make a state visit to Singapore in November to attend the 6th Asean-US Summit and 13th East Asia Summit, said MFA.

The two men last met in October last year, during the Prime Minister's official working visit to Washington at Mr Trump's invitation.

Several ministers were also at the lunch yesterday, including Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Mr Ong told The Straits Times: "The interactions were friendly and relaxed, like those between a good guest and a hospitable host."

Another guest said the two sides talked about economics, regional and international politics, and energy exports from the US.

On the menu, said to be catered by the Gordon Grill from the Goodwood Park Hotel, were Angus beef tenderloin, lobster bisque and cherries jubilee with clotted cream ice cream.

The mood was warm and friendly, and the Singapore hosts even surprised the US President with a birthday cake. Mr Trump turns 72 on Thursday.

"President (Trump) was surprised and looked happy," said one of the guests, adding that those present sang him a birthday song, and shared his cake afterwards.

"Celebrating birthday, a bit early," Dr Balakrishnan tweeted, along with a picture of a smiling Mr Trump.

Afterwards, it was back to the Shangri-La Hotel, where the US President is staying, for a meet-and-greet with embassy staff, about 250 servicemen and other Americans based in Singapore.

Mr Liam Gimon, 49, an American who has worked in Singapore as a criminal intelligence officer at Interpol for the past two years, said: "The President was very thankful for all the preparations Americans in Singapore - especially the embassy staff - have been putting in. He said he was also confident about the summit with North Korea."

Added Ms Kartika Johnson, 45, who attended the event as the guest of an embassy employee: "He made us feel appreciated."

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