Panmunjom will be 'meaningful' venue for Trump-Kim talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and South Korean President Moon Jae In outside the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom after their summit last Friday. US President Donald Trump is considering the same venue for his meeting with Mr K
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and South Korean President Moon Jae In outside the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom after their summit last Friday. US President Donald Trump is considering the same venue for his meeting with Mr Kim, saying it carries symbolic value.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Seoul welcomes possible choice of border village site, saying it will mark new milestone for peace

SEOUL/WASHINGTON • South Korea's presidential office yesterday said the border truce village of Panmunjom, if chosen for the upcoming US-North Korea summit, would serve as a meaningful venue to mark a "new milestone of peace", Yonhap news agency reported.

The remarks came after US President Donald Trump mentioned Panmunjom as a possible site for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expected to be held this month or in June.

"(We) think Panmunjom is quite meaningful as a place to erode the divide and establish a new milestone for peace," a presidential official said. "Wouldn't Panmunjom be the most symbolic place?"

Panmunjom is the site where South Korean President Moon Jae In and Mr Kim held their historic summit last Friday.

For the Trump-Kim summit, a couple of countries have been mentioned, including Singapore and Mongolia. Mr Trump is expected to pick a site soon for the high-stakes, unprecedented summit.

"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?" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday. "Just asking!"

Some US officials have argued privately that having the summit in the DMZ between the two Koreas would present the unwelcome appearance of Mr Trump travelling to Mr Kim instead of the two of them meeting at a neutral site.

At a news conference with visiting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari later that day, Mr Trump suggested the Peace House on the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) was a likely setting for his meeting with Mr Kim.

But a senior US official said Singapore was still high on the list of potential venues for the summit, according to Reuters.

"We're looking at various countries, including Singapore. And we are also talking about the possibility of the DMZ Peace House/Freedom House," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump said the Peace House carried symbolic value that having the summit in a third country would not have. He had tried to visit the DMZ last November during a trip to Seoul, but dense fog forced his helicopter to turn back.

Some US officials have argued privately that having the summit in the DMZ between the two Koreas would present the unwelcome appearance of Mr Trump travelling to Mr Kim instead of the two of them meeting at a neutral site. But officials have also debated how far Mr Kim would be able to travel.

A source told CNN there is a "strong possibility" the summit will be in Panmunjom, with some events possibly held on the northern side of the demarcation line.

Mr Trump reportedly loved the images from last Friday's summit and the fact that the entire meeting was televised, sources told CNN.

The US leader himself raised the prospect of holding the meeting with Mr Kim at the DMZ. "I think that some people maybe don't like the look of that," Mr Trump said of the idea of a DMZ summit. "And some people like it very much."

He said he had raised the idea with Mr Moon, days after dramatic images of the meeting dominated the news. "There's something I like about it because you're there," he said. "You're actually there, where if things work out, there's a great celebration to be had on the site."

Mr Trump, who has declined to comment on whether he has spoken directly to the North Korean leader, called Mr Kim "very open and very straightforward so far".

"Oh yeah, I think the summit's going to happen," he said. "They very much want it. We certainly would like to see it... I will say this: If it's not a success... I will respectfully leave. It's very simple."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Panmunjom will be 'meaningful' venue for Trump-Kim talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe