Singapore has often hosted international diplomatic talks, including the 2015 meeting between President Xi Jinping of China and President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan. And it has long had an image as a center for trade and exchange, dating back to at least the 14th century.
In 1824, Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, became a British colony, and it gained its independence as part of Malaysia in 1963. In 1965 they parted ways, Malaysia with an ethnic Malay majority and Singapore with an ethnic Chinese majority.
Since then, Singapore has grown into a wealthy city-state and financial center. It is sometimes likened to Switzerland for its relative political neutrality and its history of serving as banker in a region of dictators and oligarchs.
Singapore’s $10,000 bank note — worth about $7,500 United States dollars — has long been a favorite of the region’s smugglers and illegal logging kingpins. Although Singapore began withdrawing the note in 2014, an untold number remain in circulation.
Nevertheless, Singapore has maintained a squeaky clean image and a reputation for imposing strict discipline, including capital punishment for convicted drug dealers.
Mr. Balakirshnan, the foreign minister, said the idea of having the summit meeting in Singapore was broached by the United States.
“I think Singaporeans can be proud. Proud that we’ve been chosen because they know that we are neutral, reliable, trustworthy and secure,” he told reporters during a visit to Washington this week.