Singapore has enlisted the help of fearsome Nepalese fighters whose large curved knives, according to custom, must “taste blood” whenever they’re drawn, to protect one of the highest-profile diplomatic events so far this century.
The elite Gurkha police officers, wearing brown berets and equipped with body armour and assault rifles, are a conspicuous part of the enveloping security force Singapore has deployed for Tuesday’s summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The meeting, which could prove to be a crucial moment in the global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang, has sent the highly manicured city-state into security overdrive.
Kim’s bodyguards have been seen running in formation alongside his massive Mercedes.
Selected from the young men of impoverished Nepal, Gurkhas have been part of Singapore’s police force since 1949.
There are reportedly about 1,800 Gurkha officers in Singapore, and they are a regular presence at high-security events.
On Monday they were seen standing guard at the heavily fortified St Regis Singapore, where Kim arrived Sunday.
“This is a moment of pride to see the Gurkhas responsible for guarding such an important event,” said Krishna Kumar Ale, who served for 37 years in the British army before retiring home to Nepal.
“It shows that we Gurkhas have reached a point where we are trusted with the security of two of the most important people in the world.”
When asked about the scale of security operations for the summit, Singapore’s law and home affairs minister K. Shanmugam said Sunday that more than 5,000 police had been deployed.
The Gurkha Contingent is a special police unit inside the force.
“I think the fact that it had to be put together in two weeks added tremendously to the pressure and logistics, the demands.
“But I think the officers have worked around the clock, we are quietly confident that they have put in place the preparations,” he said.
Along with their modern weapons, Gurkhas still carry the traditional “kukri,” a long curved knife which tradition says must “ragat khaikana” – taste blood – once it is drawn.
“That is no longer the current practice … mostly,” says the Gurkhas Australia website.