Donald Trump confirms Singapore as possible site for Kim Jong Un summit, but prefers DMZ's Peace House

The Peace House, the venue for the inter-Korean summit on April 27, 2018, is pictured at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, on April 18, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS
Singapore has been confirmed as a possible site to host the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said on Monday (April 30) the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea would be an excellent venue for his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but that Singapore was also a possible site.

Trump's comments at a news conference with visiting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari suggested the Peace House on the DMZ, where Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae In last week, was the likely setting for the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the United States and North Korea.

But a senior US official said Singapore was still high on the list of potential sites for the summit, whose date still remains to be established. Trump wants to hold it by late May or early June.

"We're looking at various countries, including Singapore. And we are also talking about the possibility of the DMZ Peace House/Freedom House," Trump said. Moon and Kim held talks at the Peace House on the South Korean side of the truce village last Friday (April 27).

Trump said the Peace House carried symbolic value that having the summit in a third country would not have. The president 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 demilitarised zone between the two Koreas would present the unwelcome appearance of Trump travelling to Kim instead of the two of them meeting at a neutral site.

But officials have also debated how far Kim would be able to travel.

A source told CNN there is a "strong possibility" the summit will be held at the truce village of Panmunjom, with some events possibly scheduled on the northern side of the military demarcation line separating the two Koreas.

The source, an official with deep knowledge of North Korea's thinking on the matter, said the venue makes the most sense logistically for Kim, the source said, because media facilities and equipment are already in place, which could the allow the summit to take place "in late May."

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Traveling to the northern side of the DMZ would also provide a historic opportunity for Trump, the source said, adding that South Korea's President Moon may be involved in the summit in some capacity, according to CNN.

Trump reportedly loved the images from last Friday's (April 27) inter-Korean summit and the fact the entire meeting was televised, sources told CNN.

The US leader himself raised the prospect of holding the meeting with Kim at the DMZ.

"I think that some people maybe don't like the look of that," Trump said of the idea of a DMZ summit. "And some people like it very much."

He said he had raised the idea with Moon, days after dramatic images of Moon meeting Kim at the Peace House dominated the news.

"There's something that 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."

Buoying prospects for the Trump-Kim summit was a North Korean announcement on Sunday (April 29) that it would close its main nuclear test site in May.

But many US officials are doubtful that Kim will actually agree to give up nuclear weapons after working so long to develop them.

Trump said the North Korean decision to close the test site, along with its suspensions of nuclear and ballistic missile tests, were hopeful signs.

But he said North Korea had "to get rid of the nuclear weapons" for peace efforts to be a success.

Trump, who has declined to comment on whether he has spoken directly to the North Korean leader, called 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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