SINGAPORE (WASHINGTON POST) - At an island resort off the coast of Singapore, US event planners are working day and night with their North Korean counterparts to set up a summit designed to bring an end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
But a particularly awkward logistical issue remains unresolved, according to two people familiar with the talks. Who's going to pay for Kim Jong Un's hotel stay?
The prideful but cash-poor pariah state requires that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: The Fullerton, a magnificent neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River where just one presidential suite costs more than US$6,000 (S$8,000) per night.
The mundane but diplomatically fraught billing issue is just one of numerous logistical concerns being hammered out between two teams led by White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin and Kim's de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, as they strive towards a June 12 meeting.
After weeks of uncertainty, US President Donald Trump called off the summit last week, blaming "open hostility" from North Korea. But a flurry of diplomacy across two continents got the meeting back on track, and Trump announced on Friday (June 1) that he would attend as initially planned.
When it comes to paying for lodging at North Korea's preferred five-star luxury hotel, the United States is open to covering the costs, the two people said, but it's mindful that Pyongyang may view a US payment as insulting.
As a result, US planners are considering asking the host country of Singapore to pay for the North Korean delegation's bill.
"It is an ironic and telling deviation from North Korea's insistence on being treated on an 'equal footing', " said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at Council on Foreign Relations.
................................. Figuring out how to pay the North’s hotel tab won’t be the only unusual planning obstacle that comes with hosting an event with the isolated government. The country’s outdated and underused Soviet-era aircraft may require a landing in China due to concerns it won’t make the 3,000-mile trip, a visit that would likely require a plausible cover story to avoid embarrassment. Alternatively, the North Koreans might travel in a plane provided by another country.