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Prepping the Trump-Kim meet

Prepping the Trump-Kim meet
Though US president Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart have agreed to hold summit-level talks, the two leaders are unable to agree on a location where they can meet and converse. While Donald Trump may not want to travel far for the talks, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would prefer a location which is close-by and friendly. Working behind the scenes, top US national security officials are preparing for a one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. But the key sticking point that has emerged is the location of the talks. The scope of the summit and the composition of the delegations are being finalised. However, the two sides are at odds over the logistical details. CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret Easter weekend visit to North Korea. Kim personally promised him that denuclearisation would be a topic of discussion during the meeting with Trump. Another administration official described Kim as "personable and well-prepared" for the discussion. But the venue for the talks remains the primary sticking point. According to Trump, Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang, "went very smoothly". He added that "denuclearisation will be a great thing for the world, but also for North Korea!" and "details of the Summit are being worked out now". Trump has hailed Pompeo's personal chemistry with the North Korean despot. "He just left North Korea, had a great meeting with Kim Jong-un and got along with him really well, really great," Trump said. According to the US officials, they have selected possible locations for the historic talks. These locations are in Asia and Europe. These officials have also said that previously discussed sites including Washington, Beijing, Seoul, and Pyongyang have either been ruled out or are now considered less likely. There were five locations under consideration, none of which are in the United States, Trump told reporters on Tuesday. North Korea is looking at countries that are at least somewhat friendly to them. It is also looking for a location that Kim Jong-un can quickly and safely travel to. A US official said that President Donald Trump hates to travel, especially long trips. He will want to hold this meeting at a location that is as physically close to the US as possible. He is also very clear that he can't give away too much even before the meeting has begun by agreeing to meet in Pyongyang, Beijing or Moscow. The Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar makes a lot of sense, said a US official. Mongolia has good historical relations with North Korea. Mongolia was the second country to formally recognise the DPRK. It also provided some help to the North during the Korean War. Mongolia now professes neutrality and it has good relations with both North Korea and the United States. In Southeast Asia, Singapore is also being viewed as a likely possibility. Cities in Vietnam and Thailand are also under consideration. Singapore has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since the 1970s, although relations have strained recently. Singapore is an idyllic economic city-state -- something that North Korea could aspire for. Vietnam could be an interesting choice. It is a divided state that saw rapid growth after division. It still holds many hallmarks of the communist era. Holding the talks here would be a symbol for Kim that he can keep the communist political system married to a Western capitalist system. Thailand, which is currently under military dictatorship, could be a comforting choice for a North Korean delegation. But, it is not very high on the list. It could be a third, neutral choice. The location for the talks is subject to a number of factors such as how far Kim is willing or able to travel by train or aeroplane. Other likely destinations where the talks can be held include destinations in Europe such as Switzerland and Sweden. Stockholm would be on the top of the list of likely venues. Among Western states, Sweden is among the closest to North Korea. Switzerland would also be a top choice. Kim went to school in Switzerland and is familiar with the country. The US is also familiar with it as it has a long history as a neutral state. Switzerland has earned a huge reputation for neutrality, which the two sides will be looking for. Kim Jong-un has spent time there as a student, which also means he will be more comfortable travelling there than any other Western state. The large UN presence in Geneva will ease concerns about preparatory work and logistics. And, it's also a lot closer for President Trump than many of the other possible locations that have been floated.
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