11 Jun 2018

Countdown for on-again off-again summit is on

6:32 am on 11 June 2018

The countdown for the on-again, off-again and now very on-again Singapore summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump is underway and Singaporeans are bracing for major disruption.

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Photo: AFP

The 12 June summit has been declared an "enhanced security special event" and until 14 June, the densely-populated island nation will be caught up in a very large security operation.

The chosen location is Sentosa, a 5km square island, linked by a causeway to Singapore itself, and one of Asia's top tourist attractions.

Ironically or perhaps prophetically, Sentosa means "peace and tranquility" in Malay, but the island has a chequered history, once housing a prisoner of war camp run by wartime Japanese forces, called "Rear Death Island".

It boasts white-sand beaches, theme parks, casinos, and perhaps more importantly golf courses.

The chosen location is Sentosa, a 5km square island, linked by a causeway to Singapore.

The chosen location is Sentosa, a 5km square island, linked by a causeway to Singapore. Photo: Google Maps

Donald Trump has reportedly already floated the idea of hitting an 18-hole round of golf with his North Korean counterpart but only if they get on.

The actual venue for the talks is the five-star 112-room Capella Hotel. It's private and secluded, surrounded by rainforest.

It has two presidential suites which are historic stand-alone bungalows, where observers believe the two leaders will meet and hold talks.

All week police and security personnel have been patrolling the hotel which is honouring existing guest reservations, but has not accepted any new bookings for the week of the summit.

The whole of Sentosa Island will be subject to enhanced security checks, potentially slowing the movement of traffic. People, vehicles and vessels entering the island may be forced to undergo bag and body checks, while items such as flags, banners, drones and flammable materials will be banned.

The venue for the talks, the Capella Hotel.

The venue for the talks, the Capella Hotel. Photo: asiatourism.co

But Sentosa Island isn't the only place readying for disruption.

The Singapore government has designated an area near the main downtown district as another special event security zone. It's tipped to be where the two leaders and their large entourages will actually stay, although no announcements have been made.

The Tanglin district has several luxury hotels including the Shangri-La which hosted the historic and only meeting between China's President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in 2015.

Observers are picking that Mr Trump is likely to stay at the Shangri-La, while Mr Kim will be at the nearby St Regis.

While both leaders will bring their own personal security teams, elite Singaporean police, including its Gurkha Contingent, will be securing the summit venue, roads and hotels, according to diplomats familiar with VIP security in the island state.

Armed police have already been seen on the streets.

Airspace over Singapore will be restricted during the summit.

An aviation notice says all aircraft arriving into Singapore's Changi Airport will be required to reduce speed and face some restrictions on runway use for what it said were "reasons of national security".

Changi Airport is one of the world's busiest with more than 7000 flights landing or departing each week.

In terms of why Singapore was chosen to host this much-anticipated geopolitical meeting, analysts agree it is safe, neutral ground.

Both Pyongyang and Washington have embassies there, they both have close trade ties with Singapore, it has good infrastructure and can provide high-level security.

But perhaps most importantly Singapore does not tolerate rowdy protests or demonstrations.

It's considered a conventional choice for two unconventional leaders.

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