WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – President Donald Trump said the list of potential locations for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been narrowed to two countries.
“I don’t think he’s playing,” Trump said Friday of Kim. The North Korean leader earlier Friday held a historic meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, where the two agreed to work toward formally ending their war and pursue the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula.
“We will, I think, come up with a solution and, if we don’t, we leave the room with great respect and we just keep it going,” said Trump, speaking to reporters at the beginning of a meeting in the Oval Office with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Later, at a joint news conference with Merkel, the US president added that he and Kim “have a very good working relationship” and “a lot of good things are happening.”
Trump has said he hopes to meet with Kim by early June to try to resolve a stand-off between the US and North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
He had previously said the two countries were looking at five locations for the summit, which would be the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president.
“A lot of very positive things happened over the last 24 hours,” Trump said.
“We’ll be setting up a meeting very shortly. We have it broken down to probably two sites now, two or three sites, locations. And hopefully we’re going to have great success.” Trump hailed the move, declaring “KOREAN WAR TO END!” on Twitter.
South Korea had long refused to participate in talks to end the Korean War, leaving an uneasy truce between North Korea and China on one side and United Nations forces – led by the US – on the other. Although China long ago withdrew its troops, more than 28,000 American personnel remain based in South Korea, which the Kim regime views as an enduring threat.
The meeting between the two Korean leaders produced unprecedented scenes, starting with Kim’s step over the ankle-high concrete slab dividing the Korean Peninsula – and then his walk back across the border hand-in-hand with Moon. Later, the leaders planted a tree and talked privately for 30 minutes in front of television cameras.
Kim called for frequent meetings between the leaders, which would be a major shift given only three summits have taken place since the war. And he capped it off with live remarks to reporters, something no other North Korean leader had done before.
Still it remains to be seen whether North Korea will meet Trump’s demand to give up its nuclear weapons and missiles.
One ominous sign was commentary from North Korean state-run media following the Korean leaders’ meeting calling on the US to drop its “anachronistic hostile policy” and “bad manners.”
It declared North Korea a “world-level politico-ideological and military power” and said it would contribute to building “a world without nuclear weapons.”
Still, new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with Kim over Easter weekend, said he has “a sense” that the North Korean leader is serious about denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday less than 24 hours after being sworn in, Pompeo echoed some of Trump’s favorite phrases, saying an agreement with Kim would be a “wonderful thing.”