Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel seen as likely venue for US-North Korea summit

Key Points
  • A neighborhood in downtown Singapore has been designated a "special event area" for the June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit, according to a government statement.
  • Several luxury hotels are located in the area, but security experts believe the Shangri-La will likely host the historic meeting.
  • There is no official confirmation yet on venue.
The Shangri-la Hotel in Singapore
Ore Huiying/Getty Images

The five-star Shangri-La hotel in downtown Singapore is widely expected to host the upcoming June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.

The area around the hotel, consisting of the Tanglin, Newton and Orchard districts, has been designated a "special event area" from June 10 to June 14, the Singaporean government said in a Sunday statement about the high-profile event.

That means the summit venue will likely be in that zone, which is home to several luxury hotels such as the Grand Hyatt and St Regis. The Shangri-La, however, boasts certain security advantages that make it the most likely choice of venue, according to experts.

The 792-room property is located in a residential neighborhood surrounded by small roads, which makes it easier to control vehicle and pedestrian access, said Ong Kok Leong, chief operating officer of security agency Secura Group.

Being in a residential area also means "the threat posed by neighboring buildings would have been mitigated through security screenings prior to the event," he continued. Moreover, "with the hotel positioned on a hill top, its vantage points offer good visibility on surrounding activities," allowing security forces to position themselves at various strategic positions, he added.

Also working in the Shangri-La's favor is its proven track record of hosting heads of state such as former Presidents Barack Obama and George H.W. Bush. It was also the site of a milestone 2015 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

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Every year, the hotel also welcomes a suite of global defense officials for a conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. The event, which had Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as this year's keynote speaker, took place over the weekend and was considered a dry run for the June 12 meeting. During the conference's 2016 edition, a Gurkha officer — soldiers of Nepali origin considered among the world's fiercest warriors — shot dead a man who drove a car through several road blocks after ignoring police warnings.

A Shangri-La spokesperson told CNBC that it wasn't currently in a position to comment on matters related to U.S.-North Korea summit.

But no matter the venue, management will still have to go through extra preparations and arrange additional safety mechanisms, said R. Krish, director of operations at security services firm Armour Security.

Washington and Pyongyang have yet to provide confirmation on where the meeting will be held. In the latest update, the White House on Monday said Trump and Kim will meet at 9 a.m. Singapore time on June 12, adding that preparations were still ongoing.

If the summit venue is a hotel, it's not clear whether the leaders will stay overnight or retreat to different hotels.

North Korean official Kim Chang Son and Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, arrived in the Southeast Asian city-state last week to finalize planning. Kim Chang Son is staying in the Fullerton Hotel with his team, a potential indicator that Kim Jong Un himself might sleep there.

Before the "special event area" was announced, many believed the Capella Hotel — where Kim Chang Son and Hagin recently held talks — could be chosen as the summit venue. Also in the running was the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, which hosted the 2006 IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings.