North Korea's Diplomatic Footprint Dwarfed by U.S. in Singapore

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and North Korea picked Singapore as the venue for a historic summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. A look at the two countries’ embassies in the city-state illustrates the disparity of wealth and power between them and underscores Kim’s skills in securing the summit.

North Korea

North Korea has had an embassy in Singapore since the two countries established diplomatic relations in the 1975. Ambassador Kim Chol Nam operates out of a suite of rooms on the 15th floor of the High Street Centre, an office building at 1 North Bridge Rd. that stands directly opposite Singapore’s Parliament House, with views of Singapore River.

The embassy has eight representatives and spouses registered with Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, compared with more than 100 for the U.S. Although the tower is located in a prestigious area, the building itself was completed almost half a century ago, according to property website PropertyGuru.com.

Why Trump and Kim Picked Singapore for Their Summit: QuickTake

NKNews, a news portal focused on North Korea, reported that the embassy moved to its current location in 2016 from a five-bedroom, 7,500-square-foot house located at 60 Joo Chiat Lane in Singapore’s East Coast between the city and Changi Airport.

The embassy also once operated out of the Golden Mile Complex, according to AsiaOne, a website that reports on Singapore affairs. A member of Singapore’s parliament in 2006 described the complex as a “vertical slum,” and lamented the “terrible impression” it must make on foreign visitors.

United States

The contrast between the two embassies couldn’t be wider. The embassy is located in a complex that cost $30 million to build and sits in a large garden in Singapore’s most exclusive diplomatic area. It’s flanked by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British High Commission, the Australian High Commission and China’s embassy.

The building features a reflecting pool, a landscaped colonnade and materials including Minnesota granite and Vermont marble. The building brought together almost all of the U.S. embassy functions in Singapore.

U.S. relations with the city-state go back to 1836 when Joseph Balestier was appointed as the first consul general, according to the U.S. embassy website. His wife was the daughter of American revolutionary Paul Revere, famous for warning the “the British are coming” on his midnight ride.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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