What Is Sentosa Island? Singapore’s Former Pirate Hangout Now Hosts Foreign Leaders & Tons Of Tourists
A summit between the United States and North Korea doesn't scream "summer getaway," but that's exactly where the historic diplomatic summit is taking place. A popular tourist hotspot in Singapore will host President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their negotiations. So, what is Sentosa Island?
Sentosa Island is a 1,235-acre island in Singapore that will remain open to the public throughout the summit, according to a release from the island. The island first came to Westerners' knowledge as a British colony in the 18th century, according to ABC News.
Its location between China and India turned the island into a haunt for merchant sailors and pirates, according to the BBC. The island was then known as Pulau Blankang Mati, which literally means "island of death behind" in Malay because of its bloody reputation.
During World War II, Sentosa Island was transformed into a Japanese prisoner of war camp when the British colonial forces surrendered. According to the BBC, the island was renamed Syonan-to. It means "light of the south." During the war, as the BBC detailed, "thousands" were killed on the occupied island. The beaches near the island where the two leaders will be meeting include some of the massacre sites.
In the 1970s, the island's name was changed to encourage tourism, and Sentosa Island was chosen from a nationwide contest, according to BBC. The name means "peace and tranquillity," according to the news service. Going even further, Sentosa Island has rebranded and is marketed as "Sentosa: State of Fun" to encourage even more island visitors.
Sentosa Island is decidedly modern now, and attracts about 19 million people to its shores, according to ABC News. The island even houses the Universal Studios Singapore next to the multi-star resorts. There are a number of high-end hotels and golf courses — amenities President Trump is sure to appreciate.
The historic meeting will take place at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, according to Reuters. It's a mix of modern and colonial buildings on a five-star resort. The marketing for the island advertises things like the "10 Most Instagrammable Spots" and the hashtag #thestateoffun accompanies almost all official information about the Sentosa Island's offerings.
Alongside its modernity, the island maintains important historical sites, and they will also be a part of the summit's preparation. At one of the historic World War II forts on the island, the canons have been decorated with flowers in honor of the summit. Lilies, eustomas, gerberas, and olives were "chosen specifically for their representation as symbols of peace," according to ABC News.
Singapore is also known for its high security measures and lack of political protest, which could help set a neutral stage for two unpredictable leaders.
Bullhorns, banners, drones, and spray paint are banned from Sentosa Island during the summit, The New York Times reported. Furthermore, as the newspaper reported, any protest — even just one, solo protester — would require a permit that the county is unlikely to issue.
A researcher told NBC News that the country has a "immense amount of security infrascture" already usable for such an event. "It's not a surprising choice, really," Graham Ong-Webb, a research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told NBC News. "It’s a very safe and secure country, we have an immense amount of security infrastructure in place."
NBC News also reported that protests are "almost entirely illegal" in the country. "With that in mind, that’s worked in our favor for this summit, because you can enter a country where you’ll probably not see a protest," Ong-Webb also told the news network.