Singapore Refresher from Trump-Kim Summit

The Singapore government purportedly spent some S$20M toward hosting the Trump-Kim Summit which happened yesterday. It went quite well or maybe absolutely very well, depending on who you’re asking. Let’s take a step back and see if it was really worthwhile for Singapore to have played host to Trump and Kim?

This S$20M may not be a lot to pay to put Singapore in history books as the place where the world saw North Korea started a new chapter of their relationship with the United States, as well as the rest of the world. It’s also an opportunity to showcase Singapore to the world, to bolster recognition of our tiny nation state.

At least that’s what we hope. You know, that they know better about who we are, where we are, and what we’re like.

The good news is that we’re no longer associated with China. The U.S. Secretary of State thinks we’re a part of Malaysia. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo that we separated from Malaysia in 1965. Fortunately Air Force One did arrive at the right place.

That gaffe was reported by Yahoo News, among several other cute ones. The White House, for example, tried to teach the right way to pronounce the name of our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Please listen up, his name is pronounced as “lee haz-ee-en lahng”. That’s according to American English. I don’t even know how to pronounce that.

Then, we have BBC putting Capella, The St Regis, and Shangri-La Hotel on the same  island, the island of Sentosa. I get it, they got the wrong Shangri-La. But how did St Regis end up in Sentosa? Did the BBC think the smallish 4.71 km² was the entire Singapore? Yes, our nation city state is really small. But not that small.

I’m sure we’re still greatly misunderstood in many other ways. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders depiction of Singapore is a sobering reminder.

As a tech person that has IT security under my portfolio, the one thing that caught my attention is how our dear Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) provided international media that descended here to cover the summit with a gift bag that included a USB gadget. MCI thought the fan was thoughtful in Singapore’s hot weather. But a USB gadget is a big no-no because of cyber-security threats associated with not just potential malware, but also physical incapacitation of your computer.

Check out USB Kill. Oh yes, it was once an idea, and then a proof-of-concept demonstrated at a hacker conference. Then it became a commercial product you can simply buy off-the-shelf.

This summit is between two countries very well-known for their extensive and sophisticated cyber espionage. Of all things, MCI didn’t consider that a USB gadget could be a bad idea, if not in very bad taste?

Smart nation we want to be, but not very cyber-security smart.

S$20M isn’t very much out of our government’s total operating budget. But I think we could have done better to present ourselves to the world. The choice of meeting venue, at Capella hotel, even though we know to be quite atas, probably gives the impression that our city isn’t as modern as it actually is. The media had to work out from the F1 Pit Building, which is neither close by to the meeting hotel nor the hotels Trump and Kim stayed at. The media, by the way, ate food from an airline caterer. I hope SATS dished out something decent.

Maybe we didn’t have enough time to plan better. Trump’s fickleness didn’t help. Hopefully we now have an operation template to use for future such opportunities.

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