Where Might Trump and Kim Jong Un Meet? Here Are Some Possibilities
Posted March 12, 2018 3:14 p.m. EDT
HONG KONG — Among the many questions about a meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, is where it might happen.
Trump is known for being a reluctant traveler. Kim is even more of a homebody, not leaving North Korea since he took over after his father’s death in 2011.
But if the two do meet, which some White House officials believe will never happen, they will need a venue suitable for such a historic moment. Here are a few options:
— The Demilitarized Zone
The village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas might be the most promising location. Occasional meetings have been held in a small conference room that straddles the dividing line in the Joint Security Area and that has entrances on either side of the border.
The Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjom is a larger building perhaps more suitable to a meeting between the two leaders. North and South Korean representatives met there to plan the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics last month in the South. And Kim has said he would go there to meet South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in.
— Pyongyang, North Korea
The North Korean capital has been the site of high-level meetings before. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have visited, and inter-Korean summit meetings were held there in 2000 and 2007.
It might be an awkward setting for Trump, though, who would be wary of not being seen as a supplicant. And North Korea might want to give Trump, who has expressed an interest in military parades, a display of its own.
When Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright visited Pyongyang in 2000 in an attempt to convince Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father, to halt his ballistic missile program, she attended a mass propaganda performance that included an image of the very missile she was trying to get North Korea to curtail.
— Jeju Island, South Korea
The governor of the South Korean island of Jeju has proposed holding the meeting there. The island, south of the Korean Peninsula, is a tourist destination, and its relatively small size and population could make security easier than in a large city like Seoul, the South’s capital.
Washington would also be a potential spot, although Kim would most likely be wary of making the U.S. capital his first trip abroad as North Korea’s leader.
A meeting there would also be awkward for the White House, which would be wary of the propaganda value it could give the North. When Marshal Jo Myong Rok, a high-level North Korean military official, visited Washington in 2000 to invite Clinton to Pyongyang, he first met with Albright while wearing a business suit. He then changed into a medal-festooned military uniform and high-brimmed hat to meet with Clinton, creating an uncomfortable image for the White House.
China is North Korea’s only significant ally, although their relationship has hardly been close in recent years. Still, China was one of the few countries Kim Jong Il traveled to as North Korea’s leader.
China has also played an active role in promoting negotiations among all sides and was a host to the so-called six-party talks a decade ago. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Friday that China welcomed the meeting and would “continue to make unremitting efforts” for a “peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.” But he did not directly answer a question about whether Beijing would be host.
Geneva, the city in neutral Switzerland, has hosted high-level meetings between rivals, like between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. And Kim Jong Un would have more familiarity with the country, where he studied in the late 1990s, than most other places.
Like China, Russia has been an occasional destination for North Korean leaders. Kim himself has not gone as leader, though. He canceled plans to travel to Moscow in 2015 for events to mark the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. A visit to Moscow might not look good for Trump, either, given the charges that Russians tried to interfere in the 2016 election to help his campaign.
Sweden has long been a key intermediary between the United States and North Korea. The United States does not have an embassy in the North, and Sweden is the so-called protecting power that provides consular services for Americans, including meeting with citizens who are imprisoned there. Sweden has also been the site of talks between North Korean officials and experts from the United States, South Korea and elsewhere. And last week a Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, reported that Ri Yong Ho, the North Korean foreign minister, would visit Sweden soon, fueling speculation about a possible meeting location.
— Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Mongolia, which shares borders with Russia and China, has pursued a policy of neutrality in recent years and has good relations with both the United States and North Korea. Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, a former Mongolian president, tweeted in support of a meeting in Ulan Bator, saying: “Here is an offer: US President Trump and NK leader Kim meet in UB. Mongolia is the most suitable, neutral territory.”