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SAF scores an ‘A’ for securing Trump-Kim Summit against external threats: Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE — Sentosa was not the ideal venue for the Trump-Kim summit given its exposure to potential threats from the sea, air and mainland, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (June 29) in a wide-ranging interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day this weekend.

A gunner from the Republic of Singapore Navy RSS Fearless keeping watch over the waters off Sentosa during the Trump-Kim Summit on June 12.

A gunner from the Republic of Singapore Navy RSS Fearless keeping watch over the waters off Sentosa during the Trump-Kim Summit on June 12.

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SINGAPORE — Sentosa was not the ideal venue for the Trump-Kim summit given its exposure to potential threats from the sea, air and mainland, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (June 29) in a wide-ranging interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day this weekend.

But for planning to the last detail, the SAF scored an “A” in securing the historic meeting earlier this month against external threats, Dr Ng said.

On June 12, United States President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went without a hitch at the Capella Singapore hotel on Sentosa.

The meeting took place after a series of diplomatic flip-flops that initially saw the summit cancelled abruptly.

When the go-ahead was given finally, the SAF had a fortnight to prepare. “From a security perspective, it wasn’t the ideal situation,” said Dr Ng.

The Sentosa venue, while allowing movement from the mainland to be restricted, was exposed to threats from the sea.

Ships traverse the busy shipping lanes south of Sentosa, and it was only a matter of minutes to make a sharp turn towards the resort island, Dr Ng said.

The potential threat of an aerial attack and from the mainland could not be ignored either.

But as good hosts, “when the guests want to choose a venue, it’s up to us to make sure that we can secure it and make sure that it’s absolutely safe”, said Dr Ng.

More than 20 aircraft guarded the skies, forming a protective dome around Sentosa and across Singapore. For instance, the country’s F-15SG and F-16C fighter jets were loaded with air-to-air missiles and live munitions, Dr Ng said.

At sea, the Navy’s capabilities were out in force, with two Littoral Mission Vessels and a missile corvette among its fleet.

More than 100 ambulances and vehicles, and medical response teams were deployed to guard against threats on land.

Around Capella Singapore, as well as the Shangri-La and St Regis hotels in town — where Mr Trump and Mr Kim were putting up respectively — the SAF also deployed more than five chemical, biological, radiological and explosives sections and six Super Puma helicopters, among others.

To ensure safe passage into Singapore for Mr Trump’s Air Force One jet and his entourage, hundreds of soldiers were stationed to the north and south of Paya Lebar Airbase. The same was done for Mr Kim at Changi Airport.

The SAF’s mission was to deter attacks. “If any attack occurs, respond decisively, neutralise all attacks. No margin for error, no room for failure,” Dr Ng said.

While there was no “direct information” on plots against the summit from local and foreign intelligence agencies, sophisticated networks and terror elements can hide their tracks quite well, he said.

Some outsiders were surprised that Singapore was not shut down for the summit and wondered why the Republic did not declare a public holiday or close the beaches on Sentosa, for instance.

That Singapore could function even when there was no margin for error was a “measure of strength”, said Dr Ng.

The summit validated the country’s defence systems built over more than five decades, and Dr Ng said he was proud of the SAF’s performance.

“Short of a real war or a terror attack, this is a real threat that the SAF can respond to. In exam terms, this is a preliminary test (for) which I think we scored an ‘A’… It’s a strong reassurance (of) steady investments into defence.”

Stopping short of giving the SAF an “A+”, he acknowledged that there were “some gaps” identified but declined to elaborate.

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