World News

Trump Indicates Willingness to Meet North Korean Leader in the DMZ

Posted April 30, 2018 4:07 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he would like to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, at the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea, declaring that if their rendezvous is a success, “there’s a great celebration to be had on the site.”

In a tone that mixed ebullience about his coming diplomacy and playfulness about speculation where the meeting will be held, Trump said the two sides had narrowed the choice for a site to a handful of places. Those included Singapore and the Peace House in the South Korean border town of Panmunjom, where the leaders of the two Koreas met last week.

Trump continued to raise expectations for his own meeting with Kim, which is scheduled for late May or early June. And the president dismissed suggestions that ripping up the Iran nuclear deal, as many believe he will do as early as May 12, would jeopardize the prospects for an agreement with North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons program.

“The United States has never been closer to potentially having something happen with respect to the Korean Peninsula, that can get rid of the nuclear weapons, can create so many good things, so many positive things, and peace and safety for the world,” Trump said during a Rose Garden news conference with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.

Trump acknowledged that not all his advisers share his enthusiasm for meeting Kim in the Demilitarized Zone, a 2 1/2-mile-wide, 160-mile-long strip of land, marked by heavily-armed observation posts, rolls of razor wire and barren hillsides.

“Some people maybe don’t like the look of that, and some people like it very much,” the president said. “There’s something I like about if, because you’re there, if things work out, there’s a great celebration to be had on the site, not in a third party country.”

Early Monday, Trump first signaled his preference for meeting the North Korean ruler in the Demilitarized Zone.

“Numerous countries are being considered for the MEETING,” Trump tweeted Monday morning, “but would Peace House/Freedom House, on the Border of North & South Korea, be a more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third party country? Just asking!”

Previously, White House officials had privately played down the possibility of the Peace House, a three-story, gray stone edifice built by South Korea to hold meetings with officials from the North. The concern has been the optics of Trump traveling to Kim’s doorstep.

The discussion comes following dramatic images of Kim greeting South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, at the line of demarcation between North and South, and sitting down with him in the Peace House.

Trump has heaped praise on the meeting, and it has accelerated the momentum behind his own encounter with Kim.

Among the logistical issues for a meeting distant from the Korean Peninsula is Kim’s ability to travel long distances, given the rickety condition of his aircraft.

On Sunday, the South Korean government said Kim told Moon that North Korea would relinquish its nuclear weapons if the United States pledged not to attack it and endorsed a peace treaty formally ending the military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.