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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Capella, the luxurious resort for Trump-Kim summit

Por Nina

The summit to be held by US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un will take place at the stunning Cappella Hotel on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. An unlikely environment for a summit that, until recently, was even more so. The island of Sentosa, once a hotbed of pirates and now home to the wealthiest class in Singapore and home to theme parks such as Universal Studios, will become the epicenter of the world's geopolitical scene next week. After days of speculation, the White House has confirmed that the space chosen for the June 12 meeting will be the Capella Hotel, an impressive building designed by the architect Norman Foster and located on the island where singers such as Lady Gaga or Madonna have been hosted during their tours in Singapore.

The announcement was made on Twitter by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "We thank our magnificent hosts in Singapore for their hospitality," the message underscored. Impatiently, from the hotel they claimed they had not yet received an official notification and indicated that they were waiting for instructions to know what kind of measures to take before the summit. At the moment, the Capella's 112 rooms - ranging from 500 to 7,500 dollars a night, in the case of the suite with three bedrooms and a private pool - are blocked until June 15. The five-star Capella hotel is one of the great hotel brands in Singapore. Its owners are the Kwee brothers, owners of the local real estate Pontiac Land Group, who turned to the British architect Norman Foster and the Indonesian designer Jaya Ibrahim for its construction. The result is an imposing building with a colonial facade, modern interiors and elegant pools, an idyllic setting with views of the South China Sea and golf courses in the surrounding areas, which seems more conducive to a holiday retreat than a top-level political summit.

The Capella integrates a colonial-style building, low and white, with another new one that surrounds it, on a lower level are the three outdoor infinity pools with views of the South China Sea and disseminated neatly on the 12 hectares of the property is located the villas and the apartment club. All of Singapore is a natural park where even the lower floors of the skyscrapers are surrounded by flowers. In Sentosa the vegetation grows wild, and it does not slow down in the Capella either. And if the exterior of the hotel pleases, the interior of the rooms can not be more harmonious and comfortable.

This is not incompatible with the latest technology: with an iPad, air conditioning is controlled (vital in a country with an average humidity of 83%), the blinds are raised and lowered, and the curtains are drawn and pulled back. And all this without the guest going crazy with a thousand buttons which is a miracle of modern hospitality. Its name as a possible place for the meeting already began to sound during the weekend, gaining strength on Tuesday afternoon. The Singaporean government newsletter then designated Sentosa, south of Singapore, as a "special event zone" between June 10 and 14, giving the police additional powers to guarantee security in the designated perimeter.

Until then, other hotels in Singapore more skilled in diplomatic events won the pools. Especially the Shangri-La hotel, located in the commercial district of Orchard and the annual enclave of the Security Dialogue of the same name, the most traditional one in Asia, which last weekend received figures such as the Secretary of Defense of the USA, James Mattis, or Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in its 2018 edition. Both the Shangri-La Hotel, also the setting for the historic meeting in 2015 between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou, and the St. Regis Hotel, are within the second "special zone" declared by the Singaporean authorities for next week. It is estimated that it will be in those hotels where Trump and Kim Jong-un will stay with their delegations. The first is a family space for American delegations, which has already hosted Barack Obama in 2009 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. The second is, along with the majestic Fullerton, in the financial district, one of the favorite hotels of the North Korean part, according to the South Korean agency Yonhap.

Not only remains unknown where Trump and Kim Jong-un will stay, going to Singapore makes his longest trip abroad since he came to power in 2011, but also who will pay the hotel account of the North Korean side. With an economy stifled by its nuclear program and international sanctions, it has been speculated that the bill would fall into the hands of the US, or even Singapore. Something that the US State Department has denied. "We are not going to pay their expenses," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, adding that they will not ask third parties to subsidize them either. The only certainty about the summit is, for the time being, that it will start on the 12th at 9:00 in the morning, local time (01:00 GMT), and that it will be held at the Capella hotel in Sentosa. The choice of the island does respond, according to sources close to the negotiations between both delegations, to the interest of the North Korean side. Sentosa is only linked by land to Singapore on a 710 meter high road, and by air via a cable car. "It makes them feel more secure," said the aforementioned sources.

Sentosa is one of the 63 islands that make up Singapore. Of 500 hectares and a short distance from the main island, it is known for hosting luxury resorts, private marinas and golf clubs. Sentosa is home to one of the most prestigious residential enclaves in the country, Sentosa Cove, where you can find multi-million dollar houses with yacht docks. Golf courses abound on the island, as do some of the most luxurious hotels in Singapore and a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants. The location of the island, just opposite the continent, makes it a safe place. In addition, it can only be accessed by a cable car, a monorail, a pedestrian walkway and a tunnel for vehicles. And if world leaders need a break during this historic summit, they can also relax playing golf. However, the island also hides a dark past. The British established a commercial port in Singapore in the 19th century due to its privileged location between India and China. But before British rule Singapore was already an important commercial center, frequented by merchants and pirates. At that time the island was known by the name "Pulau Blakang Mati" or "island after death", in reference to its reputation for violent piracy. The population of the island was mainly Malay, Chinese or Bugis (sea people originally from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi).

Singapore fell into the hands of the Japanese in 1942 after the surrender of British troops during World War II. The Japanese gave it a new name- Syonan, which means Light of the South. During the following years the new owners of the island killed thousands of people in their attempt to purge anti-Japanese elements in the Chinese ethnic community. According to the reports, the Japanese called Chinese men who were between 18 and 50 years old and then machine-gunned and thrown into the sea. Several of these massacres took place on the beaches of Sentosa, the same ones that can be seen from the hotel where Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet. The island also served as a Japanese prisoner of war camp for British and Australian military personnel. In the 1970s, the Singapore government renamed Sentosa Island, which means "peace and tranquility", with the intention of turning the island into a tourist destination. But Sentosa's problems did not end there. In 1983, two wagons of a tourist funicular sank in the sea after being hit by an oil drilling ship. Sentosa has since reinvented itself as the "state of fun". A Universal Studios theme park, a new water park and the Resorts World casino attract thousands of Singaporeans and tourists each year.