Report follows release of three US citizens detained in North Korea, as Kim says meeting would be ‘excellent first step’
Julian Borger in Washington
The first summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader will take place in Singapore, CNN reported on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump said that the time and place of the historic meeting with Kim Jong-un had been decided and he would announce the details in the next three days. But CNN quoted two people familiar with the plans as saying that administration officials had been told to start organising the meeting in Singapore, although the timing was unclear.
The report came as the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, returned home from Pyongyang with three US citizens that North Korea had been holding prisoner. Their release followed talks between Pompeo and Kim about the forthcoming summit, and Trump is expected to welcome them home when they land overnight at Andrews air force base outside Washington.
The official North Korean media quoted Kim on Wednesday as saying the encounter with Trump “would be a historic meeting” and an “excellent first step toward promotion of the positive situation development in the Korean peninsula and building a good future.” Kim said he released the three Americans after an “official suggestion” from Trump.
Pompeo has described US objectives for the summit as the immediate “permanent, verifiable irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program”. It is far from clear that is an outcome acceptable to the Pyongyang regime which has taken decades to develop nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.
On the flight back from North Korea, Pompeo told reporters that the location and time of the summit had been agreed, but said details would be forthcoming in the next few days.
“Now that part is behind us for sure, and we had a chance to talk substantively about what we intend to be on the agenda, and also how we’re going to begin to coordinate in the days ahead between now and the summit in a way that we – both sides are confident that we will set the conditions for a successful meeting between the two leaders,” the secretary of state said.
The choice of venue could not be confirmed independently, but Singapore was one of the possible sites mentioned by Trump, who had ruled out a meeting in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas.
Singapore was favoured by US officials because of its neutrality and infrastructure.
“Singapore wasn’t my first choice for the North Korea summit location. But Singapore is a very valued US partner and a remarkable city-state that punches many times above its weight. This is a good choice,” said Mintaro Oba, a former state department official who worked on Korean negotiations.