U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday (local time) that the United States is “negotiating a location” for a second summit with North Korea.
His remarks came amid a prolonged deadlock in nuclear talks between the two sides, and several Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia have surfaced as possible candidates for a second Trump-Kim meeting.
Following Trump’s comments, Southeast Asian countries have been floated as potential venues. Trump had said as he returned from the Group of 20 (G20) summit on Dec. 1 last year that a second summit would be held “into January, February,” saying that three locations were being considered. Yet, this is the first time that he confirmed negotiations with the North are underway on where to hold a second meeting.
Many speculate that the two leaders will hold a summit in a Southeast Asian country considering a distance North Korean airplanes can travel.
CNN reported last Thursday that the Trump administration “sent scouting teams to multiple locations in different regions, including Asia, during the last few weeks of 2018.” “The White House reached out to North Korea in an attempt to get Kim (Jong Un) to Switzerland for a meeting with Trump but the two sides were unable to make it happen due to travel concerns,” CNN said.
Countries that have established a friendly relationship with the North, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mongolia, are currently considered likely venues for a second summit. Vietnam seems to be a strong candidate as it has maintained a cooperative relationship with the United States despite the past hostilities, and is also a role model of economic development for Pyongyang. The demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Hawaii have been also suggested as possible choices.
“Indonesia is farther than Singapore, and Malaysia has its reputation damaged by the murder of Kim Jong Nam,” said Shin Beom-cheol, the head of the National Security and Unification Center at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “The chances are high that Vietnam is selected as it has improved relations with the United States and is close to the North.”
Still, how the two countries will discuss the agenda and reach an agreement is more important than where a summit will be held, according to experts.
“We have a very good dialogue going,” Trump said, adding that he has spoken with Kim “indirectly.” Though he made it clear that sanctions on North Korea would be still in effect, Trump stressed that progress has been made in the denuclearization front by saying, “There’s no rockets. We’re doing very well.”
Yet, a summit held without an agenda closely coordinated through working-level talks will hardly produce any progress toward “complete denuclearization” as seen in the first Trump-Kim meeting last year. “In case high-level talks continue to be put off, Trump may want to use a second summit as a way to break the current stalemate,” Shin said. “If the two countries skip high-level negotiations and jump to a summit, their talks may go in the direction of a nuclear freeze, not denuclearization.”
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