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First North-U.S. summit could be at five-star hotel

May 14,2018
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Possible venues for the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore next month include, from top, the Shangri-La Hotel, the Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa Island. [CHUN SU-JIN]
SINGAPORE - With the looming summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore next month, experts have narrowed down possible locations for the historic summit.

One of the most likely is the Shangri-La Hotel in central Singapore, the location used for the annual Asia defense security forum among ministers and delegates of over 50 countries, the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue.

“Shangri-La Hotel would be a likely venue because of its experience in hosting the annual Shangri-La Dialogue,” said Sarah Teo, an associate research fellow on multilateral security and defense cooperation in Asean at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, in an email to the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Hotel staff and local security forces would already be familiar with the logistics and security of holding a high-level summit at the hotel,” she said. “Moreover, its location is quite isolated, so security-wise it would seem to make sense. It is not too easily accessible by public transport, it is in an area which doesn’t usually have high foot traffic and roads leading to the hotel could be blocked off without [many] complications.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s former President Ma Ying-jeou held the first summit between China and Taiwan in 66 years at the hotel in 2015.

“If our hotel is chosen as the venue, the Singaporean government, security at the hotel and police will altogether secure the venue for the summit,” said a manager at the hotel. “But there has been no decision on the venue of the summit yet.”

One possible venue within the hotel that Kim and Trump may use is a pavilion known as the Orchid, a partially exposed seating area covered by a lattice of wooden beams. The pavilion is at the end of a long path providing some level of privacy that would allow the two leaders to hold a private dialogue similar to the one that South Korean President Moon enjoyed with Kim during their summit last month.

Another possible location is the Marina Bay Sands in southern Singapore, an iconic hotel made up of three towers topped with a platform that spans the complex and contains a swimming pool and park.

“This place could be an attractive choice for the North,” said a Singaporean photographer under condition of anonymity, who has traveled to the North more than 10 times. “When North Koreans visit Singapore, they always want to see the Marina Bay Sands. It is an icon of economic development, and I can see how the North may want to hold the summit here.”

But stakeholders may be concerned with security at the hotel, which has over 2,500 rooms and a casino.

“Priorities in terms of security at the summit will be about [figuring out] the proximity of surrounding people, the air space management of local overhead security, the surrounding sea and seaport security,” said Michael Daniel, a Singapore-based technical adviser to several trade organizations, in an email to the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Straits Times of Singapore reported that Sentosa Island, located in southern Singapore, may be another option. The island houses two golf courses that Trump may find attractive.

BY CHUN SU-JIN, PARK HYUN-JU AND ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]