Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump said Monday he was confident his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will go ahead, as he talked up the idea of holding it in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas.
Trump revealed last week that two or three locations were under consideration for the historic meeting — which would be the first between a sitting US president and a leader of North Korea — but had yet to publicly name a potential site.
Addressing a joint press conference with his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari, Trump confirmed that Singapore was under consideration as a location, but — following on from a morning tweet — said the DMZ should be given strong consideration.
“There’s something I like about it because you’re there — if things work out, there’s a great celebration to be had on the site, not in a third party country,” Trump said.
“We’re also looking at other countries including Singapore,” the US leader added. “Everybody wants us — it has the chance to be a big event.”
Other potential locations reportedly include Mongolia and Switzerland.
The Peace House in Panmunjom — the village in the DMZ where the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War was signed — was where Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Friday in a major step towards easing tension on the flashpoint peninsula.
In his morning tweet, Trump had already floated the site as a possible venue.
“Numerous countries are being considered for the MEETING, but would Peace House/Freedom House, on the Border of North & South Korea, be a more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third party country? Just asking!” he wrote.
Preparations for a Trump-Kim meeting have gathered further momentum since Friday’s Korean summit, which saw Pyongyang and Seoul promise to pursue the complete denuclearization of the peninsula and a permanent peace.
“The United States has never been closer to potentially having something happen with respect to the Korean peninsula, that can get rid of the nuclear weapons,” Trump told reporters, voicing confidence the summit would go ahead — and reiterating he would walk away if it failed to live up to his expectations.
“Yeah, I think the summit’s going to happen, they very much want it,” he said.
“Personally I think it will be a success, we will see. If it’s not a success — you got to get rid of the nuclear weapons — if it’s not a success, I will respectfully leave.”
– High tensions to talks –
The planned Trump-Kim summit would cap a remarkable shift since last year, when Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test, by far its most powerful, and test-launched missiles theoretically capable of reaching the US mainland.
Its actions sent tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded insults and threats of war.
But in the latest sign of a spectacular detente facilitated by the Winter Olympics, Seoul said at the weekend that North Korea has pledged to shut down its nuclear test site within weeks and invite American weapons experts to verify its closure.
Kim also told Moon that the North would have no need for nuclear weapons if the United States promised not to invade it, South Korean officials said.
Trump has demanded the North give up its weapons, and Washington is pressing for it to do so in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.
But Pyongyang views its nuclear arsenal as essential for the regime’s survival, and would likely make security guarantees a condition of giving it up.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ABC News at the weekend that the United States has an “obligation” to pursue the diplomatic track with North Korea, despite often hawkish rhetoric from the Trump administration.
The former CIA director also said he and Kim held in-depth talks about a “complete, verifiable, irreversible mechanism” for denuclearization when they met over Easter weekend.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton separately told Fox News on Sunday that Libya’s decision to give up its nuclear program through diplomacy was a “model” for efforts to get North Korea to do likewise.
Pyongyang however regularly cites the fates of Saddam Hussein in Iraq — whose government was toppled by a US-led invasion — and Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi, who was killed after his fall from power, as evidence of the need for nuclear arms.