Looks like this is really going to happen. President Trump tweeted Thursday that the “highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th.”
The location of the first ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president has been the subject of intense speculation since Trump accepted Kim’s invitation to meet in March. A number of cities including Pyongyang, Beijing; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and several European capitals had been floated as potential venues. Just last week, Trump said publicly he wanted the meeting to happen in the DMZ between North and South Korea, where Kim recently met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, since it would be a symbolically powerful venue for a celebration if a breakthrough were to occur at the meeting.
Singapore makes sense as a venue. It’s a rare country that historically has had good relations with both the United States and North Korea—North Korea has an embassy there. Until recently, Singapore was one of North Korea’s largest trading partners, and North Koreans enjoyed visa-free travel there, though the Singaporeans have cracked down lately in compliance with U.N. sanctions. Singapore also has experience hosting major summits—it was the location of the historic meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan in 2015. The security details for Trump and Kim will also likely appreciate that the authoritarian city-state is likely to keep public disturbances to a minimum.
In another milestone, Kim flew to Dailan, China, on Monday, becoming the first North Korean leader to fly abroad in 32 years. This may have been a dress rehearsal and demonstration that, unlike his aviophobic father, this Kim is capable of going places he can’t reach by train.
The announcement of the summit came hours after Trump welcomed home three Americans whom North Korea had held prisoner. Their release is a significant confidence-builder ahead of the summit, not that Trump is lacking in confidence. “My proudest achievement will be—this is part of it—when we denuclearize that entire peninsula,” Trump said after thanking Kim for releasing the men.
While these are all positive developments, it’s still unclear whether North Korea would actually be willing to give up its long-sought nuclear weapons, as Trump hopes, or what concessions it would demand in exchange. Ideally, this summit will be the beginning of a process of reducing tensions on the peninsula, though the president seems to have much grander ambitions for it.