Death, POWs and buried silver: Checkered history of Trump-Kim summit venue

SINGAPORE, June 6 (Reuters) - A resort island off Singapore that once housed a prisoner of war camp run by wartime Japanese forces and was called "Rear Death Island" is the venue for Tuesday's summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The island is now called Sentosa, or Peace and Tranquility, and the two leaders will meet in the Capella hotel, a refurbished British Royal Artillery mess, where, according to legend, there may be silver buried under the lawn.

There were few tourists at the Capella on Wednesday but police, other security personnel and workers were thronging the luxury sprawling hotel to prepare for the meeting that is set to start in six days time.

The hotel is honoring existing guest reservations for now but no new bookings were being accepted.

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Sentosa Island in Singapore
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Sentosa Island in Singapore
The Resorts World Sentosa integrated resort and casino complex, operated by Genting Singapore Plc., stands on Sentosa Island in Singapore, on Monday, June 4, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to meet in the city on June 12. Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A view of Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Siloso Beach on Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Sentosa Island through the mouth of the Merlion statue in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of a water theme park on Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Siloso Beach on Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Universal Studios Singapore on Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of a beach on the island resort of Sentosa in Singapore July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside
A view of resorts in Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Sentosa island and the skyline of the central business district in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A view of Sentosa Island in Singapore June 4, 2018. Picture taken June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A cable car is seen over the island resort of Sentosa in Singapore July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside
Joggers pass the Cape Royale condominium in Sentosa Cove on Singapore's Sentosa island in this August 19, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE- SEARCH 'BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD APRIL 11' FOR ALL IMAGES
Yachts are moored in the marina of the man-made Sentosa Cove resort, Singapore April 25, 2015. When Singapore celebrated its 50th birthday as an independent country in August, the city state bore little resemblance to the tiny island nation that was expelled from Malaysia in 1965. Its physical stature has swollen by 20 percent thanks to one of the world�?s most aggressive land reclamation drives. REUTERS/Edgar Su/FilesPICTURE 27 OF 31 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY 'EARTHPRINTS: SINGAPORE' SEARCH 'EARTHPRINTS SINGAPORE' FOR ALL IMAGES
The view of Resorts World Sentosa island in Singapore is pictured on June 6, 2018. - A highly anticipated meeting between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place at a resort island off Southern Singapore, the White House confirmed on June 5, 2018. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Capella hotel on Sentosa island resorts in Singapore is pictured on June 6, 2018. - A highly anticipated meeting between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place at a resort island off Southern Singapore, the White House confirmed on June 5, 2018. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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While Singapore has hosted major summits in the past, none have been held on Sentosa, better known for its beaches, hotels, a casino and a Universal Studios theme park.

"That means having to plan the security strategy from scratch," said Toby Koh, group managing director at Ademco Security Group, which provides security systems to businesses in several Asian countries.

Koh is not involved in security for the summit.

The United States and North Korea are technically still at war, being the signatories along with China of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Trump has indicated he would try to sign a document that formally ends the war.

Singapore has declared all of Sentosa island a "special event area" for the Trump-Kim summit, which means it will be subject to enhanced security checks, potentially slowing the movement of traffic, and banning the use of loudspeakers and drones.

Even though hotels and other establishments on the island was bracing for disruptions for several days next week, the government agency that handles its management said it would be "business as usual."

But those who live in the multi-million dollar homes on the island, linked to Singapore by a causeway, monorail and cable car, were braced for delays.

"Sentosa has only one entrance and if the entrance is blocked completely, it will definitely be a major inconvenience," said Patricia Siswandjo, a Sentosa resident.

Once a graveyard and named Pulau Belakang Mati, which roughly means "Rear Death Island" in Malay, it was developed as a tourist attraction in the 1970s, when it was enlarged through land reclamation.

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Preparations for Trump-Kim summit
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Preparations for Trump-Kim summit
A bartender presents cocktails "Kim" and "Trump", special drinks offered at Escobar bar to mark the summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Singapore June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: In this photo illustration, the Royal Plaza in Scotts Hotel adds summit-themed dish - the Trump-Kim Burger to its menu on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: A local eatery, Harmony Nasi Lemak, offers a special Trump Kim-Chi dish to its menu on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
Special red and blue shots offered at Escobar bar to mark the summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, are displayed on a table in Singapore June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: In this photo illustration, Lucha Loco, a mexican restaurant and bar, have created the El Trumpo and Rocket Man tacos on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
Cocktails "Kim" and "Trump", special drinks offered at Escobar bar to mark the summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, are displayed on a table in Singapore June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A bartender prepares "Trump", a special drink offered at Escobar bar to mark the summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Singapore June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: Custom-made Trump-Kim pinatas on display at Lucha Loco, a mexican restaurant and bar, on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: Custom-made Trump-Kim pinatas on display at Lucha Loco, a mexican restaurant and bar, on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: A man looks at a promotional poster outside a local eatery, Harmony Nasi Lemak, which offers a special Trump Kim-Chi dish to its menu on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - 6 JUNE: In this photo illustration, a pair of drinks nicknamed 'Bromance', is created specially for the Trump-Kim Summit by local bar Hopheads on June 6, 2018 in Singapore. The White House confirmed on Tuesday that the historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island on June 12 as the Southeast Asian city-state prepares to host the much-anticipated event while increasing the security across the island and designated certain parts as 'a special event area'�. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images)
The Whisky Trump and The Rocket are pictured at the Empire Sky Lounge in Singapore June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Feline Lim
A bartender presents a pair of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un cocktails called The Bromance at Hopheads Craft Beer Bar and Bistro in Singapore June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Feline Lim
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UNDER THE LAWN

Included in the Capella are two colonial-era bungalows that used to accommodate British artillery officers and was also their regimental mess. According to the hotel's web site, the officers buried the regimental silver in front of the mess before the Japanese invasion.

Part of the silver was recovered from Malaysia in later years "but the whereabouts of the rest is still unknown, and possibly still lying under the lawn," the web site said.

Today the Capella is a part of real estate development company called Pontiac Land Group, which is owned by Singapore's billionaire Kwee family that bought the brand from former Ritz Carlton president Horst Schulze last year.

It has 112 rooms, suites, villas and manors, including the three-bedroom colonial manor, which goes for 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,500) a night. The grounds have three pools, tennis courts and a spa.

Although no announcements have been made, the leaders are unlikely to stay on Sentosa.

Singapore has designated a separate area near its main downtown district as another special event zone, which has several luxury hotels, which could house the two delegations.

The Orchard Road district also has most major embassies, the Interpol regional office, condominiums, high-end shops and malls and some seedy bars and massage parlors.

The Orchard Towers, a short stroll from some of the major hotels that have been mentioned as possible venues to host Trump and Kim, is home to the embassies of Cambodia and Romania but also a series of establishments with names such as "Naughty Girl" and "Top 5" that come to life after dark.

Not far from there is the Shangri-La Hotel, the site for the historic and only meeting between China's President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in 2015. Last weekend, the hotel hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other defense ministers for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue and local media have said it could be where Trump stays.

Security will be the biggest priority for Singapore, ranked one of the safest countries in the world, but which has been stepping up efforts to deter terrorism in recent years.

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.

"Because of the unique sensitivities and peculiarities of the summit, almost anything unpredictable could possibly affect the summit itself," Graham Ong-Webb, a research fellow, at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said.

($1 = 1.3327 Singapore dollars)

(Additional reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Jack Kim and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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