Thursday 18 October 2018

Trump reveals time and place for meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un

The president tweeted: ‘We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!’

Donald Trump has announced the date for the summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un (Niall Carson/PA)
Donald Trump has announced the date for the summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un (Niall Carson/PA)

By Matthew Lee, Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump has said he will meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.

The president tweeted: “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”

Mr Trump provided details for the first time about the history-making meeting between a sitting American president and the leader of North Korea over denuclearisation.

He had said he favoured holding the meeting at the Demilitarised Zone, the heavily fortified border separating the Koreas.

But the island nation was favoured by most of his advisers.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has travelled to Pyongyang twice to meet with Mr Kim in recent months, in a precursor to the Trump-Kim meeting.

Mr Pompeo returned overnight with three captive Americans during his most recent trip.

With the final details in place, Mr Trump and Mr Kim will meet in the first North Korea-US summit talks since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Mr Kim has suspended nuclear and missile tests and put his nuclear programme up for negotiation, but questions remain about how serious his offer is and what disarmament steps he would be willing to take.

Earlier on Thursday, with the American former prisoners by his side at a dark air base, Mr Trump said during a made-for-TV ceremony that it was a “great honour” to welcome the men back to the US, but he added that “the true honour is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons”.

Vice president Mike Pence, Mr Pompeo, other top officials and first lady Melania Trump joined the president in the celebration in the early hours of Thursday morning at Joint Base Andrews near Washington.

The men – Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim – had been released on Wednesday amid the warming of relations between longtime adversaries.

Mr Trump thanked Mr Kim for releasing the Americans and said he believes the North Korean leader wants to reach an agreement on denuclearisation at their upcoming summit.

“I really think he wants to do something,” the president said.

Mr Pence said on NBC News: “In this moment the regime in North Korea has been dealing, as far as we can see, in good faith.”

Singapore had emerged as the likely host of the summit after Mr Trump yielded to the concerns of his aides and backed off his desire to hold the meeting at the inter-Korean Demilitarised Zone.

Located at the southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore is a regional hub in South East Asia whose free enterprise philosophy welcomes trading partners from everywhere.

It has close diplomatic and defence ties with the US and yet is also familiar ground for North Korea, with which it established diplomatic relations in 1975.

Shortly before 3am, the president and first lady boarded the medical plane on which the men had travelled and spent several minutes meeting with them privately.

The group then emerged at the top of the plane’s steps, where the men held up their arms in an exuberant display.

US service members burst into applause and cheers.

“This is a special night for these three really great people,” Mr Trump told reporters.

On the US relationship with North Korea, Mr Trump declared: “We’re starting off on a new footing.”

The freed prisoners appeared tired but in excellent spirits, flashing peace signs and waving their arms as they emerged from the aircraft.

When asked by reporters how it felt to be home, one of the men answered through a translator: “It’s like a dream; we are very, very happy.”

They later gave the president a round of applause.

Suggesting that recovery from their ordeals would take time, Mr Pence recounted that Mr Pompeo told him that at the refuelling stop in Anchorage “one of the detainees asked to go outside the plane because he hadn’t seen daylight in a very long time”.

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Donald Trump greets Tony Kim, Kim Hak Song and Kim Dong Chul (Susan Walsh/AP)

The White House choreographed the arrival event, suspending a giant American flag between two fire engines on the ground and inviting reporters to witness the return.

The image-conscious president told reporters: “I think you probably broke the all-time-in-history television rating for 3 o’clock in the morning.”

The men were taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, where they were to be evaluated and receive medical treatment before being reunited with their families.

The public display stood in stark contrast to the low-key, private reception that the State Department had envisioned, in keeping with a practice of trying to protect potentially traumatised victims from being thrust into the spotlight so soon after their ordeal.

Mr Trump entered office as an emboldened North Korea developed new generations of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of hitting the continental US.

Crediting himself for recent progress, Mr Trump has pointed to Mr Kim’s willingness to come to the negotiating table as validating US moves to tighten sanctions – branded “maximum pressure” by the president.

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Donald and Melania Trump with the freed men (Alex Brandon/AP)

Mr Kim decided to grant amnesty to the three Americans at the “official suggestion” of the US president, said North Korea’s official news agency KCNA.

North Korea had accused the three Korean-Americans of anti-state activities. Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation’s nuclear weapons.

The last American to be released before this, college student Otto Warmbier, died in June 2017, days after he was repatriated to the US with severe brain damage.

Mr Warmbier was arrested by North Korean authorities in January 2016, accused of stealing a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing the government of torturing and killing their son.

“We are happy for the hostages and their families,” the Warmbiers said in a statement. “We miss Otto.”

Press Association

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