Donald Trump says date and venue set for landmark North Korea meeting to be announced soon
President also leaves open prospect of US troop reductions in South Korea though ‘not at this moment’
President Donald Trump said on Friday that the date and venue for his landmark summit meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un would be announced soon, as he left open the prospect of future US troop reductions in the South.
“We now have a date and we have a location, we’ll be announcing it soon,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House on a trip to Texas to address the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.
Trump pushed back at suggestions he was envisaging a draw-down of troops in South Korea as part of negotiations with Kim’s regime in the North, but he admitted it was a possibility in the longer term.
“Not really, not at this moment. Certainly not,” Trump said when asked whether troop reductions were on the table.
“I think a lot of great things will happen. But troops are not on the table.”
The US president then added: “Now I have to tell you, at some point into the future, I would like to save the money. You know, we have 32,000 troops there.”
National security adviser John Bolton called the report in The New York Times about possible reductions “utter nonsense” in a statement on Friday.
Plans for a meeting between Trump and Kim follow months of tense sabre-rattling over Pyongyang’s testing of atomic weapons and long-range missiles, including some that are theoretically capable of reaching the US mainland.
But a spectacular detente in recent months has fed hopes of a historic turning point on the Korean peninsula.
Seoul and Pyongyang have remained technically at war since the 1950s but South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim agreed at a landmark meeting of their own last week to work towards a permanent treaty to replace the 65-year-old armistice.
Preparations for a Trump-Kim meeting have gathered further momentum since the Korean leaders met.
Trump said this week that the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea would be an excellent venue for the planned summit, but that Singapore was also a possible site.
The Peace House at the DMZ was the venue for the meeting between Kim and Moon.
Trump, who had also hinted at imminent news about three Korean-Americans detained in North Korea, once more sounded an upbeat note regarding their fate.
“We’re having very substantive talks with North Korea and a lot of things have already happened with respect to the [US] hostages. I think you’re going to see very good things,” added Trump, while answering media questions before boarding the Marine One helicopter.
The US government was looking into reports that the three, Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong-chul, who had been were arrested in recent years in North Korea had recently been relocated from a labour camp to a hotel near Pyongyang, as expectations grow that they will be released in a gesture of good will before the summit.
The United States has been demanding their release. Reports have suggested that the two nations were close to reaching a deal on their release.