White House Quietly Looking for a Way to Foot Kim's Hotel Bill for Summit
North Korea is an impoverished country. How impoverished? Reports at The Daily Caller and other news outlets, confirmed by sources, say that the administration is discreetly looking for a way to pay for the North Korean delegation's hotel bill during the summit with Donald Trump later this month in Singapore.
North Korea, a proud-yet-impoverished country, apparently needs another country to cover the costs of its supreme leader’s hotel stay at The Fullerton, an expensive five-star hotel in Singapore preferred by the North Koreans, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing two people familiar with preparations. The U.S. is reportedly trying to figure out how to discreetly pick up the tab without insulting the easily-agitated North Koreans.
The president, on the other hand, is expected to stay at the Shangri-La during the highly-anticipated summit.
Paying Kim’s hotel bill is one of several important matters being discussed by the U.S. and North Korean teams in Singapore, teams led by White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin and Kim’s de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son. The cost of a presidential suite at The Fullerton can run as much as $6,000 a night, reports The Post.
It is unusual that there is a need for discretion given that the North Koreans have a history of demanding that other countries foot the bill for its participation in international events.
During the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Seoul agreed to spend $2.6 million to cover the costs of North Korea’s participation — not the athletes but rather the North’s massive collection of cheerleaders.
For the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, South Korea reportedly paid North Korea $500 million to come to the table.
North Korea “constantly couples its diplomacy with demands for aid, especially cash, as though the international community has to pay for the privilege of engaging,” Robert Kelly, a professor of international relations at Pusan National University in South Korea, told The Washington Post back during the Olympics.
Apparently, the upcoming summit is no different, although the cost of the hotel is significantly lower, making such a payment less of a concession but still a problem. As North Korea is heavily sanctioned for its illicit weapons programs, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control would need to issue a waiver to temporarily suspend the application of sanctions for such payments to be possible.
Is North Korea really that poor? Or are they just carrying out their long-standing policy of playing international beggar? Probably a little of both. Ever since China joined the tough international sanctions regime, North Korea has been really hurting for hard currency. It's hard for Kim to keep the inner circle happy when he can't buy them the goodies they're used to.
But the North has always demanded some kind of aid from their negotiating partners before they even agree to sit at the table. The U.S. has not been immune to these tactics, supplying food to the North in exchange for negotiations on their nuclear program.
But Kim's willingness to overlook Trump's initial cancellation of the summit means that it's probably more a question of North Korea being hard pressed for cash rather than some negotiating ploy. It may be that Kim has even less leverage than we thought and desperately needs the sanctions against his country lifted soon or a real economic collapse is in the offing.