WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that his first face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would happen next month in Singapore.
“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’s announcement came hours after the arrival on U.S. soil of three Americans previously imprisoned by North Korea. In a pre-dawn ceremony at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence welcomed the trio — Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song — whose release was a condition for the high-stakes summit to take place. The president thanked Kim Jong Un for the trio’s release, describing it as a gesture of “goodwill” ahead of the denuclearization talks.
“We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people,” Trump said early Thursday, standing alongside the Americans who had been imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp on political charges for more than a year.
Trump’s praise for Kim was met with criticism by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who in remarks delivered on the Senate floor Thursday, said: “We cannot be fooled into giving the North Korean regime credit for returning Americans that should never have been detained in the first place.”
“We are all rooting for diplomacy to succeed on the Korean Peninsula, but we cannot sacrifice the safety of American citizens around the world in exchange for an illusory veneer of peace,” Schumer said. “I worry that this president, in his eagerness to strike a deal and get the acclaim and a photo op, will strike a quick one and a bad one. Not a strong one, not a lasting one. President Trump and Secretary Pompeo must seek strong, verifiable, and enduring commitments from North Korea to disarm.”
Trump had initially declared his preference for holding talks in the Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea and South Korea, but said on Wednesday that the site had been ruled out. In recent weeks, Trump administration officials had floated the idea of Singapore.
Julian Ku, a professor at Hofstra Law School who specializes in U.S. foreign policy, said Singapore was likely the final choice because it had the infrastructure in place to “guarantee the security of the President,” while also providing an Asian nation that had diplomatic ties with North Korea.
Singapore is considered a close ally of the United States, allowing American naval vessels to use its ports, and is one of the few countries that plays host to a North Korean Embassy, Ku said.
“It’s a modern up-to-date high-tech city,” Ku said, adding that it’s rare for Kim to travel beyond North Korea. “He never makes state visits. He never goes anywhere except for China. He prefers to stay closer to home, so this appears to work out, to be the closest that they could come up with.”