United States President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore, the first-ever summit between the top leaders of the two Cold War rivals to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Trump’s announcement came hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned home from North Korea with three detained Americans.
Trump, who personally greeted the trio at the Andrews Air Force Base, praised Kim for their release ahead of their summit.
‘The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!(sic)’ Trump tweeted.
In April, Trump had stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Kim in an unprecedented sit-down.
Trump and Kim had previously traded insults and threats. The breakthrough came after the recent landmark talks between North and South Korea.
At a summit last month, 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.
The main issue under discussion at the Trump-Kim summit will be North Korea’s nuclear weapons, which the US is demanding Pyongyang give up.
There has been no word from North Korea on its agenda or what it might offer, although a key issue is certain to be the presence of 30,000 US military personnel in South Korea, along with the removal of sanctions.
Trump has struck a cautiously optimistic tone in discussing the prospects of reaching a deal during his upcoming summit with Kim, saying 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.
“We are starting off on a new footing — I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful. A lot of very good things have happened,” Trump said as he greeted the three former prisoners.
The Americans — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim — were freed on Wednesday by North Korea while Pompeo was on a visit to Pyongyang to finalise the details of the Trump-Kim summit.
The trio had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in North Korean labour camps.
“I really think he wants to do something and bring the country into the real world,” he added of Kim. “It’s never been taken this far, there has never been a relationship like this. I really think a lot of progress has been made.”
The summit, which has been in the works since Trump accepted Kim’s invitation to meet in March, will be the first ever meeting between a sitting US president and North Korean leader.
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.
Singapore has been used before for high-profile diplomatic occasions. In 2015, the leaders of China and Taiwan held historic talks in the South East Asian city-state – their first in more than 60 years, the BBC reported.
The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with Pyongyang in November last year as US-led international sanctions were tightened following a series of provocative actions by the reclusive state.