SINGAPORE: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came across as a confident, young leader who wants to forge a "new path" for his country, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told CNN on Monday (Jun 11).
"He is a confident, young leader ... I think he wants to go on to a new path. What he is prepared to deal, and how the agreement can be worked out – well that is a complicated matter. I think he has an intention to do something, and that is why he is meeting Donald Trump," Mr Lee said in an interview with CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim are set to meet face-to-face on Tuesday morning in a history-making summit.
Mr Lee said that he hopes the summit will "turn around the negative trend of events".
"We hope that by providing a venue which is neutral, which is agreeable to both sides, we enable a productive summit to take place which will turn around the negative trend of events in Korea over the last few months," he said.
When Ms Amanpour suggested that Singapore is quite far from the Korean Peninsular - 10 hours by plane - Mr Lee replied that the time taken to reach Singapore from North Korea is "fewer by missile".
But he clarified that Singapore's concern is not that it will be a military target.
"If there are tensions in Northeast Asia on the Korean Peninsula, it is going to destabilise the region and Southeast Asia is not going to be let off scot-free, nor the world," he said.
"I think if this meeting can have a constructive outcome, and we can have contributed something to that, I think it is a duty we should do."
When asked for his views on Mr Trump and the summit, Mr Lee said: "I think he is hoping for a positive outcome and the key thing is he needs to assess whether Mr Kim is serious or not."
Elaborating, he said that if both sides are serious about wanting a deal, they have to be prepared to "give-and-take".
"Something can be worked out if you really want to come to an outcome. If you do not want an outcome, you just want a photo opportunity and then you go home and either you beat your chest and you declare victory on an empty document, or you go home and say 'the other guy, you cannot do business with him'," he said.
He also warned of further nuclearisation in East Asia and the world, if current tensions are not deescalated. South Korea and Japan have entertained the notion of having nuclear capabilities in the past, and it may not stop there, he said.
"The Taiwanese have nuclear-powered plants and they have thoughts too. It is very destabilising even if you confine yourself to East Asia," he said, adding that the Middle East countries will also be watching the precedents which are being set.
"I think it can be very troublesome for the world," he added.
SINGAPORE NOT "REPRESSIVE"
Turning to Singapore, Ms Amanpour asked if the country will "open up more". Mr Lee replied that Singapore was not "repressive".
"Why is the political scene like that? Because that is the way Singaporeans have voted and it is an outcome of the elections," he said.
Mr Lee added that Singaporeans can say or publish what they want, subject to the laws of sedition, libel and contempt.
He corrected Ms Amanpour when she mentioned an "American who was very heavily penalised for chewing gum".
"Michael Fay was not (caned) for chewing gum. Michael Fay went around vandalising vehicles, scratching vehicles and causing a lot of damage. And he was caned for that. You do not get caned for chewing gum," Mr Lee said.
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