Donald Trump will meet Kim Jong Un next week on a tiny Singaporean island covered in golf courses that was once a pirate hangout, called “Island of Death from Behind.”
The White House confirmed Wednesday the highly anticipated sit-down between the two leaders will be held in the Capella Hotel on the exclusive resort of Sentosa.
There's been a flurry of negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea leading up to the on-again, off-again summit; officials from Washington and Pyongyang visited the hotel last week to iron out logistics and security.
“A lot of relationships being built, a lot of negotiations going on before the trip,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Wednesday. “We’ll see what happens. But it’s very important — it’ll be a very important couple of days.”
The choice of Sentosa Island, known as an exclusive resort for wealthy Singaporeans, was not an obvious one. But the venue has several advantages for security, not least the fact it is located away from the mainland with limited access.
The island has just one land link — a 710-meter causeway for pedestrians and vehicles, as well as a monorail and a cable car. This should make it easier for security services to control the flow of people on and off the island.
“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.
Kim is extremely worried about security at the summit, according to U.S. officials speaking to Bloomberg, and he is especially fearful of assassination attempts — meaning security is likely to be ultra-tight across the city-state during his visit.
The Singapore government has announced a range of enhanced security measures, including restricting airspace from June 11 to 13.
The government said police will make stricter checks of people and personal belongings, with items such as public address systems and remotely controlled aircraft — including drones — prohibited.
Another advantage of the Capella Hotel is that it is not overlooked by any tall buildings. Indeed, the flat open fairways that surround the hotel will give security personnel a clear view of anyone approaching the hotel, according to Julian Taylor, an Asia-based crisis management expert.
Trump and Kim will be taking their own security detail to Singapore, which will be augmented by elite members of the Gurkhas Contingent of the Singapore police force.
The Gurkhas, a tribe from the mountains of Nepal and one of the most elite fighting forces in the world, have been more visible on the streets of the city-state in recent weeks. They were seen last week in full combat gear protecting those attending a regional security summit in the Shangri-La Hotel.
Those in attendance included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
"They are among the best Singapore can offer, and I am sure they will be involved [in the summit]," Tim Huxley, an expert on Singapore's armed forces at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told Reuters.
Although unconfirmed, the U.S. delegation is expected to include Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chief of Staff John Kelly, who will stay at the Shangri-La. That hotel could be used for some ancillary meetings within the summit.
Kim will be flanked by a similar raft of officials, as well as former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who the New York Post reports will arrive in Singapore the day before the meeting. The ex-basketballer and Kim have struck up a bizarre bromance in recent years, with Rodman visiting the hermit kingdom on several occasions.
Trump is hoping to use the summit to push Kim to agree to a timetable for removing his nuclear arsenal, though it remains doubtful the despot will be willing to do so. This could lead to a very brief meeting, as Trump has insisted he’ll walk out of negotiations if things don’t go his way — and no doubt straight on to the fairway.
Cover image: Trump hits a tee shot on the tenth hole of the Trump International Golf Links golf course near Aberdeen. (Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)