Summit likely to be held in Singapore, not Panmunjom

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Summit likely to be held in Singapore, not Panmunjom


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, Wednesday in Pyongyang, North Korea. [YONHAP]

The first North Korea-U.S. summit is expected to be held in Singapore after U.S. President Donald Trump ruled out the other possible venue that had been named, Panmunjom, the truce village at the inter-Korean border.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Trump eliminated the demilitarized zone on the inter-Korean border as a potential location for the talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“It will not be there, no,” he replied, when asked by a reporter if the summit would be held at the DMZ, which emerged as a possible candidate for the North Korea-U.S. meeting after the inter-Korean summit on April 27.

Fox News reported that the summit is expected to take place in Singapore in early June.

CNN likewise reported that Trump administration officials were instructed to move forward with plans to convene the summit in Singapore, according to two people familiar with the plans.

At the cabinet meeting, Trump said the exact location will be announced “within three days.”

“We’ve picked a time. We’ve picked a place for the meeting, or ‘summit,’ as you like to call it,” said Trump. “And I think it’ll be very successful.”

North Korea initially pushed for Pyongyang, while the United States preferred a neutral third-country location.

But any overseas location would have to be within the range of Kim’s 1970s-era Chammae-1 private jet, which can fly stably non-stop for only up to around 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles). A flight from Pyongyang to Singapore takes around 6 hours and 30 minutes, and the distance is 4,700 kilometers, within the range of the Chammae-1, a Soviet aircraft.

Singapore is considered a neutral country with the necessary infrastructure and security to host such a landmark summit, having prior experience putting together important meetings in a short period of time. Singapore has had diplomatic relations with Pyongyang since 1975, hosts a North Korean embassy, and has close ties to China. But the Southeast Asian nation also took part in the international community’s sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile provocations. Last November, Singapore suspended trade relations with North Korea in compliance with UN resolutions.

Singapore, sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Asia,” has good public safety, strong security and many international hotels that can accommodate such a historic meeting.

The Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore is being talked about as a possible venue. It has been used for key summits in the past.

In November 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou held a historic meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel. It was the first time that the leaders of China and Taiwan had met in over 60 years.

At the end of last month, soon after the inter-Korean summit held in Peace House in the southern side of Panmunjom, Trump indicated that the choice of summit locations had been narrowed to the DMZ and Singapore.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pushed for Panmunjom, one reason Trump considered it.

On April 30, Trump said that if things worked out as a summit in Panmunjom, “there is a great celebration to be had on the site, not in a third-party country.”

But White House officials opposed the idea as it could put undue emphasis on South Korea.

It has been reported that an announcement and the timing of the summit have been delayed upon North Korea’s request for security reasons.

“It’s going to be a very important event,” Trump also said Wednesday. “And I really believe it’s going to be a great thing for North Korea, a great thing for South Korea and Japan.”

He went on to thank Chinese President Xi, adding, “He was very helpful to us two days ago on something very specific,” without elaborating.

North Korean leader Kim traveled to Dalian in China earlier this week for a second summit with Xi within two months.

Moon and Trump also held a phone conversation late Wednesday after Pompeo departed from Pyongyang.

On the conversation, Trump said, “I just spoke to President Moon and explained what was taking place with respect to the three gentlemen,” in reference to the release of three Korean-Americans detained by the North. “And President Moon of South Korea was very, very happy to hear it. He, likewise, has been incredibly helpful.”

When asked if he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, Trump laughed and replied, “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.”

He went on to emphasize instead, “I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world, not for even here. I want victory for the world.”

“I can tell you that a date and location are set,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, also said Wednesday on the Kim-Trump meeting. “But we expect that to be announced here in the next few days.”

North Korean state-run media on Thursday also reported in detail North Korean leader Kim’s meeting with Pompeo the previous day in a highly conciliatory tone toward the United States, which it has often portrayed as a hostile enemy in state propaganda.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday reported that North Korean leader Kim “warmly greeted” Pompeo on Wednesday and “sincerely congratulated him on his recent official assumption as secretary of state.”

It added that Pompeo came to North Korea to “personally convey the verbal message of the U.S. president” and prepare for the North-U.S. summit, and that leader Kim “expressed thanks, highly appreciating that the U.S. president has shown deep interest in settling the issue through dialogue.”

KCNA reported that Kim said that his upcoming summit with Trump “would be a historic meeting for the excellent first step” toward the promotion of a positive situation to develop on the Korean Peninsula and for the “building of a good future.”

The report added that an “in-depth discussion” was held on “practical matters” and procedures for holding the North Korea-U.S. summit and that Kim “reached a satisfactory consensus” on the issues discussed with Pompeo.

Kim also was reported to have “accepted the official suggestion of the U.S. president for the release of Americans who have been detained in the DPRK for their anti-DPRK hostilities,” and gave an order to grant “amnesty to them for their repatriation.” DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name. Pompeo was said to have expressed thanks to Kim for his “cordial hospitality” and “showed his resolution and will to strive for the successful DPRK-U.S. summit as the U.S. secretary of state.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is scheduled to visit Washington Friday for her first talks with new U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo on Friday. The two are expected to hold a joint press conference after the meeting.

Kang and Pompeo will share their assessments of recent progress on the Korean Peninsula ahead of a summit between Moon and Trump set for May 22, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday, and engage in in-depth discussions on how the two countries can work together for the “success of the U.S.-North Korea summit” and the denuclearization of North Korea.

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