SEOUL — The historic first meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will ‘most likely’ be held in Singapore in mid-June, according to South Korea’s largest newspaper. Citing diplomatic sources in Washington, the Chosun Ilbo reported on Saturday (May 5) that Singapore is deemed the ‘strongest’ candidate to host the summit, although there is still a possibility that Trump “who likes dramatic effects” would choose Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zine at the last minute.
In its front page report, the Korean language paper also said the meeting will most likely be held in the third week of June (9-15), after Trump visits Canada for the G-7 summit on June 8-9. Trump announced on Friday that a date and venue has been set for his meeting with Mr Kim.
“We’ll be announcing it soon,” he told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Texas, without elaborating. The two leaders are expected to discuss the denuclearisation of North Korea during their meeting, which comes weeks after Kim Travelled to the truce village of Panmunjom located in the North-South border to meet South Korean President Moon Jae In.
Speculation about the venue for the Trump-Kim meeting has been going on for weeks. Kim reportedly wanted to meet in Pyongyang, but was later persuaded to travel to Mongolia, a country which has diplomatic ties with both the US and North Korea and is accessible by rail so Kim can travel there in his bulletproof train.
European countries Sweden and Switzerland have both offered to host the summit, but were ruled out due to distance from Pyongyang. South-east Asian countries Indonesia and Thailand have also expressed willingness to play host. US officials reportedly prefer Singapore, which is well known for its security.
Observers said Singapore stands out for its neutrality, efficiency and high degree of public order, and it has hosted its fair share of top-level meetings. This includes the landmark summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in 2015.
Dr Lim Tai Wei, adjunct research fellow at East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, told The Straits Times: “Singapore’s neutrality is a draw for both (US and North Korea). Public security is not a worry. Both Pyongyang and Washington have embassies here. The US is also favourable towards a location with prestige and glamour.”
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, however, said on April 28 that the city state has not received any formal invitations or request to host the summit. Meanwhile, the White House said that President Trump will host his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae In for talks at the White House on May 22.
“This third summit between the two leaders affirms the enduring strength of the United States-Republic of Korea alliance and the deep friendship between our two countries,” the White House said in a statement. “President Trump and President Moon will continue their close coordination on developments regarding the Korean Peninsula following the April 27 inter-Korean Summit,” the White House added.