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Trump says he will meet North Korea's Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore

US President Trump announced on Thursday that he will meet North Korea's Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore, setting up a historic summit in hopes of getting Kim to give up his nuclear weapons programs.

"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th," Trump tweeted. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!"

Trump will be the first sitting US president to meet with a leader of North Korea, which emerged as a communist state from the dusk of World War II and the dawn of the Cold War. Its development of nuclear weapons over the past two decades has posed a major threat to global security.

The summit has been in the works since Trump accepted Kim's invitation to meet in March. US officials had also considered holding the summit at the Korean demilitarized zone or in Mongolia, but ultimately settled on the city-state of Singapore as the location.

CNN reported on Wednesday that Trump administration officials were moving forward with plans for the meeting to take place in Singapore.

Trump last week said that a date and time for the meeting had been set. But despite that, a location and date were not finalized until US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the North Koreans. Both they and the South Korean government were pressing for talks at the Korean demilitarized zone and were encouraged by Trump's public endorsement of holding them there.

Trump's announcement came after North Korea released three imprisoned Americans during Pompeo's most recent visit to Pyongyang. Beyond securing the release of the three Americans, Pompeo also finalized details for the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim.

Trump greeted the freed Americans in the early-morning hours. He said that on their arrival that he believed Kim, who has led North Korea for seven years and is believed to be in his mid-30s, wanted to bring his country "into the real world".

Trump has struck a cautiously optimistic tone in discussing the prospects of reaching a deal during his upcoming summit with Kim, saying that he is hopeful a historic agreement can be brokered while also warning the talks could prove unfruitful. But the president saw the release of the three Americans as yet another reason for optimism as he prepares for the summit.

Foreign policy analysts said that the summit is likely to generate good headlines, given Trump's eagerness to make a deal and Kim's attempts to look cooperative. Some expressed skepticism that Kim would follow through on Trump's major goal: North Korean disarmament.

"Can they get along? Yes," said David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "I think it's highly, highly unlikely that Kim Jong-un actually gives up nuclear weapons."

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea's nuclear weapons program - over which Trump and Kim furiously sparred in 2017.

The communist North has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006, despite international condemnation and sanctions, saying that it needs the weapons for its own security.

The US wants Pyongyang to give up its weapons program completely and irreversibly.

Ahead of the meeting, Kim has pledged to stop nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, and also to shut down a nuclear test site.

But analysts caution that Kim is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that "denuclearization" means something quite different to both sides.

There has been no word from Pyongyang on what it might specifically offer at the summit, but key issues for the North will be the presence of 30,000 US military personnel in South Korea, and the lifting of sanctions that are choking the economy.

At a summit in April, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to work to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons, although the means of achieving this were not detailed and previous such pledges have been abandoned.

Why Singapore?

The United States and North Korea are technically still at war - a stop-gap armistice ended the brutal three-year Korean War in 1953 and around 30,000 American troops remain in neighboring South Korea, which the US supported in the conflict.

Singapore will provide a neutral backdrop for the summit, avoiding some of the security and political challenges associated with a meeting in the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea and South Korea.

Singapore and the United States agreed to a bilateral free-trade agreement under the George W. Bush administration, and in 2012 the Obama administration agreed to upgrade Singapore to the status of a strategic partner. Three years later, the two countries signed an enhanced security agreement.

The country also has diplomatic ties to North Korea. The two nations established diplomatic relations in 1975, and North Korea has an embassy in Singapore. Nongovernmental organizations, such as Choson Exchange, have even brought North Korean citizens to Singapore so they can gain exposure to a modern, developed economy.

There were plenty of options for the Trump-Kim summit, but almost all faced some sort of political stumbling block. Hosting the meeting in the United States or North Korea might have seemed logical, but choosing either might have implied a power imbalance in negotiations. There are plenty of cities in South Korea and China that could have been suitable, but this is a meeting between Kim and Trump, not other interested parties.

Overall, Singapore has pushed itself as a neutral actor in global affairs. The government there even has a history of putting together high-profile diplomatic events on short notice, hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping's historic 2015 meeting with his then-counterpart from Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou.
 


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