Switzerland, other neutral locations emerge as potential sites for Trump-Kim meeting

Trump last month that accepted an invitation from Kim, delivered through a visiting South Korea delegation, to meet.

No U.S. leader has ever visited North Korea while serving in the Oval Office. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton traveled to the country on peacekeeping missions, but both Democrats had been out of the White House for years before making their trip.

Much of Trump’s meetings this week with Abe have centered around regional security and his plans to meet with Kim.

Switzerland, other neutral locations emerge as potential sites for Trump-Kim meeting
Switzerland, other neutral locations emerge as potential sites for Trump-Kim meeting

Sitting alongside Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump said Tuesday that U.S. officials had been holding direct talks with the North Korean government at “extremely high levels” ahead of his planned meeting with Kim. He did not elaborate on who was taking part in the meetings or whether the meetings included Kim himself.

Trump’s confirmation that the two governments were speaking directly revealed some of the most sustained communication between the two nations in over half a century.

“We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea,” Trump told reporters. “And I really believe there is a lot of good will, lot of good things are happening.”

Trump said Tuesday that the meetings could take place in late May or early June and that they are considering five possible locations. However, finding a location has been one of the biggest logistical challenges. It was previously thought that Kim would never agree to leave North Korea given his lack of diplomatic experience and comfort level at home. Other possible locations present significant security concerns.

Late last month, Kim, 34, stunned regional officials and experts alike when he journeyed by train for what amounted to a secret trip to neighboring China. His meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping served as his international debut, marking his first trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011, and his first meeting with another head of state.

Earlier this year, South Korea made some breakthroughs with its warring neighbor after a series of meetings and discussions that resulted in North Korea sending athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Athletes from the two countries entered the Olympic arena in Pyeongchang under a unified flag, signaling the potential for warmer ties.

South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong – who communicated Kim’s interest in meeting Trump during a visit to Washington last month – said Wednesday that it will consider negotiating an end to the decades-old Korean War if North Korea commits to denuclearization.

No peace treaty has been signed to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. The increasing isolation of North Korea over the decades, plus its pursuit of uranium enrichment, has been a great source of concern for countries in the region, including Japan.

Trump said Tuesday that the two Koreas “have my blessing” to end the ongoing war.

Pompeo, a hawkish Tea Party conservative from Kansas, said during his confirmation hearing last week that “no one is under any illusions” that the planned summit between Trump and Kim will achieve a comprehensive agreement on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

During his hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he warned that the U.S. and other countries have rushed to ease sanctions too quickly in past negotiations with Pyongyang and urged vigilance.

“It is the intention of the president and the administration not to do that this time” and to ensure that “before we provide rewards, we get the outcome permanently, irreversibly, that it is that we hope to achieve,” Pompeo said.

“It is a tall order, but I am hopeful that President Trump can achieve that through sound diplomacy.”

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