WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will meet North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, marking the first-ever face-to-face engagement between the serving presidents of the two countries.
Trump himself made the announcement on Twitter on Thursday morning, shortly after the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to Washington in the wee hours with three Korean-American prisoners who were freed by Pyongyang.
Trump went to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland outside Washington to receive them before tweeting: The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!
The North Korea breakthrough could well become Trump’s signal foreign policy achievement particularly if it leads to a complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the region.
Although that is still some distance away, there is already a clamour from Trump supports who want the President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts even as his personal life and domestic political situation is mired in a tawdry scandal involving a porn star and his soft spot for Russia.
The Nobel lobbying by his supporters has also been blighted by Trump torpedoing the Iran nuclear deal and throwing that region into turmoil even as he seeks to stabilize the Korean peninsula.
Washington initially considered the Demilitarised Zone between North Korea and South Korea as a meeting place for the two leaders before eventually settling on Singapore, a city-state that is an US ally and a place the travel-shy President would be more comfortable with.
Kim himself seldom travels beyond the immediate region, and a Singapore sortie will be the first for him too.
Earlier, Trump set the tone for a positive start to the meeting by praising Kim for freeing the three prisoners, all Korean-Americans.
''These are great people. Frankly, we didn't think this was going to happen, but it did. It was important to get these people out. This is a special night for these three really great people,'' Trump said at the Air Force Base after he and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, went there at 2 a.m., their togetherness also countering media speculations about the state of their relationship.
Thanking Kim Jong-un for freeing the prisoners, Trump said he believes the North Korean despot ''really wants to do something'' and bring the hermit kingdom ''into the real world.''
''We're starting off on a new footing. I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful, and if anybody would've said that five years ago, 10 years ago, even a year ago, you would've said, 'That's not possible.''' the US President, who repeatedly insulted Kim till a few months ago, said. Kim, in turn, had called him a dotard.
''My proudest achievement will be when we denuclearize that entire [Korean] peninsula,'' Trump added, in an implicit acknowledgement that this was just the early steps of a diplomatic journey.