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Trump-Kim summit will take place in Singapore – report

The first summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader will take place in Singapore, CNN reported on Wednesday.

CNN quoted two people familiar with the plans as saying that Trump administration officials had been told to start organizing the meeting in Singapore, although the timing was unclear.

The decision is ultimately up to US President Donald Trump, who said on Wednesday that he would announce the time and location in three days.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump ruled out the demilitarized zone on the Korean border as a potential location for the talks with Kim. Singapore and the demilitarized zone are the only two places Trump has floated in public as potential venues for the meeting.

Singapore, the Southeast Asian city-state, has been the preferred location among US officials, who saw its neutrality as an advantage over locations closer to Pyongyang.

Speaking during a briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders affirmed that a date and site had been determined.

"I can tell you that a date and location are set but beyond that, I don't have any other announcements at this point," Sanders said. "But we expect that to be announced here in the next few days."

Even as Trump on Wednesday sought to heighten expectations for his summit, he acknowledged that the plans could fall apart.

"Everything can be scuttled. Everything can be scuttled," he said. "A lot of good things can happen, a lot of bad things can happen. I believe that we have -- both sides want to negotiate a deal. I think it's going to be a very successful deal." But, he repeated, "lots of things can happen. And, of course, you'll be the first to know about it if it fails."

The CNN report came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned home from Pyongyang with three US citizens that North Korea had been holding prisoner. Their release followed talks between Pompeo and Kim about the forthcoming summit, and Trump is expected to welcome them home when they land overnight at Andrews air force base outside Washington.

Trump said that he would be greeting the men when they arrive and said: "I appreciate Kim Jong-un doing this and allowing them to go." "It will be quite a scene, it represents something very important to this country - people never thought a thing like this could happen."

The US president had harshly criticized the Kim regime over human rights violations, repeatedly raising its treatment of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died last summer days after being released in a coma from 17 months of captivity.

"We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home," the three men said in a joint statement provided through the US State Department. "We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world."

The official North Korean media quoted Kim on Wednesday as saying the encounter with Trump "would be a historic meeting" and an "excellent first step toward promotion of the positive situation development in the Korean Peninsula and building a good future." Kim said that he released the three Americans after an "official suggestion" from Trump.

Pompeo has described US objectives for the summit as the immediate "permanent, verifiable irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program". It is far from clear that is an outcome acceptable to the Pyongyang regime which has taken decades to develop nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.

On the flight back from North Korea, Pompeo told reporters, "Now that part is behind us for sure, and we had a chance to talk substantively about what we intend to be on the agenda, and also how we're going to begin to coordinate in the days ahead between now and the summit in a way that we – both sides are confident that we will set the conditions for a successful meeting between the two leaders."

Yet even amid the optimism about the summit, some senior Trump administration officials sounded caution that the United States will not prematurely soften its stance toward North Korea. Last year, the North conducted nuclear and ballistic missile tests in violation of a UN Security Council Resolution, prompting Trump to derided Kim as "Little Rocket Man."

In a statement, US Vice President Pence vowed that the United States "will not let off the pressure until we achieve full denuclearization." White House Press Secretary Sanders called the release of the Americans a "step in the right direction" but emphasized that "total denuclearization remains our top priority."

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commended Trump and Pompeo for their efforts. But, he added, "Let's also remember that we have gotten to this point with North Korea before and things fell apart."

In 2014, North Korea released two American prisoners into the custody of Obama administration officials, but Pyongyang continued to flout economic sanctions and public recriminations by conducting more weapons tests.

A lingering question is whether the release of the three men will take the issue of human rights off the table at the Trump-Kim summit, even though Japan and South Korea also have had citizens who were abducted or arrested by North Korea. Kim's regime has imprisoned tens of thousands of North Koreans in brutal labor camps.
 


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