The landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be held at Singapore’s Capella Hotel on the island resort of Sentosa, off the city state’s southern tip, the White House has confirmed.
Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the venue for the June 12 event on Twitter on Tuesday, writing: “The venue for the Singapore summit between @POTUS and Leader Kim Jong Un will be the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island. We thank our great Singaporean hosts for their hospitality.”
The Singapore government meanwhile has announced enhanced security measures around the venue and said it would restrict air space over the city state from June 11 to 13.
The five-star Capella Hotel, owned by Singapore property firm Pontiac Land Group, was not an obvious choice among observers to host the summit because, unlike the more central Shangri-La Hotel, high-key political meetings have not previously been held there. But it does have the advantage of seclusion.
UPDATE: The venue for the Singapore summit between @POTUS and Leader Kim Jong Un will be the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island. We thank our great Singaporean hosts for their hospitality.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 5, 2018
Sentosa island has just one land link with mainland Singapore – a 710-metre causeway. It is also connected with the mainland via cable car.
The island has some two kilometres of sheltered beaches, two golf courses and is also the home of Universal Studios Singapore. It was once a pirate hang-out known as Pulau Belakang Mati, or “Island of Death from Behind”.
Today, Sentosa – which means peace and tranquillity in Malay – is one of Singapore’s most prestigious addresses, with “good class” bungalows there costing up to S$50 million (US$37.4 million).
“The location of Capella hotel which is separated from [the] mainland may serve as a virtual wall to keep out security threats from approaching the summit,” Singaporean national security researcher Muhamamad Faizal Abdul Rahman told This Week in Asia.
Julian Taylor, an Asia-based crisis management expert, said security personnel tasked with protecting both leaders will be helped by several features of the landscape around Capella Hotel.
Large open areas in the golf course next to the hotel will allow for clear views “assisting the identification of any potential nefarious threats,” said Taylor, the Asia head of crisis management at the risk management consultancy Aon.
“The hotel grounds themselves are spread out and relatively isolated. More importantly, there are no tall buildings overlooking the hotel complex removing security threats and unauthorised observation,” Taylor added.
The White House confirmation of the summit venue came hours after the Singapore government published a notice on its official gazette declaring the entire Sentosa island a “special event area” from June 10 to June 14 – giving police additional powers to stop and search people.
Singapore police said on Wednesday morning that it will conduct security screening on people, vehicles and vessels “entering and around the areas” of the summit venue.
Earlier this week, officials declared a special event area in the diplomatic district around Shangri-La Hotel, which is located next to the popular Orchard Road shopping district.
Some observers have said Shangri-La Hotel will play host to the US delegation, which is reported to include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Presidential Chief of Staff John Kelly and the Central Intelligence Agency’s top Korea expert Andrew Kim.
Muhammad Faizal, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the gazetting of Shangri-La Hotel could mean “both hotels could serve as venues for the summit but for different purposes”.
The Shangri-La Hotel, owned by Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok’s Kuok Group, plays host to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum which is attended by defence ministers as well as more senior leaders from around the world.
The last edition, held last weekend, had Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the keynote speaker.
The hotel also hosted the landmark meeting in 2015 between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the then Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou.
It opened its doors in 1971, making it the first of Kuok’s chain of Shangri-La Hotels around Asia.
Capella Hotel opened its doors in 2009 and was designed by the acclaimed British architect Norman Foster.
Meeting rooms in the hotel are as luxurious as its 105 rooms and suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the South China Sea. Capella Hotel’s owner Pontiac Land is controlled by the Singaporean family known as the Kwee brothers.
Diplomatic sources on Monday told This Week in Asia that Pyongyang was insistent that the historic meeting could not be held in an American- or European-owned venue.