Ahead of President Trump-Kim Jong Un summit: What we know

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President Trump shocked the world, accepting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to discuss a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. It’s historic and high-stakes.
Just the FAQs

Details trickle out almost daily about the upcoming historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, probably to take place in late May or early June. Here’s what we know so far:

Place and date are set

Trump said Friday that the location and date of their meeting has been set but didn’t give the details, saying, “It will be very soon.” 

The president was upbeat about the prospects of the summit, calling it “a good thing happening with North Korea.” He added: “It’s going to be very exciting.”

Will the U.S. pull troops from South Korea? 

One contentious issue is whether the U.S. would pull troops from South Korea as part of an agreement with North Korea to end its nuclear program. The White House denies specific plans, but The New York Times reported last week that Trump ordered the Pentagon to consider reducing U.S. presence in South Korea. 

Trump and national security adviser John Bolton denied the report.

Trump said a troop withdrawal “is not on the table” and said “we haven’t been asked to.”

He added that “at some point in the future I would like to save the money” from keeping U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula. 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on April 28 — a day after Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In — that the presence of U.S. troops there is part of the negotiations to be held with allies South Korea and Japan and with North Korea.

North-South Korea peace talks are from over

The historic summit between Kim and Moon on April 27 produced first-ever photos of leaders from North and South Korea holding hands, smiling and crossing back and forth over the border that separates the two countries that technically have been at war since 1950.

Kim and Moon pledged to discuss a formal peace agreement to end the Korean War, which halted in 1953 with an armistice. They also agreed to denuclearize the peninsula and to dismantle a North Korean nuclear missile testing site, but details have yet to be worked out.

The two countries issued a joint statement that they want to decide their future “on their own accord,” meaning without interference from China or the United States. But the two superpowers would have to participate in any peace negotiation because they also signed the 1953 armistice. South Korea was not a signatory.

The U.S. and China would also oversee the complex and years-long peace process that could end with a U.S. withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula, said Korea analyst Barry Blechman of the Stimson Center in Washington.

North Korea says Trump is ruining the mood

North Korea warned the United States on Sunday not to misread peace overtures as a sign of weakness, accusing the Trump administration of deliberately provoking Pyongyang with tough talk and a show of military strength.

Moving U.S. military assets into the region and talking about human rights violations also have hurt the process, the North Korean foreign ministry told the state-run Korean Central News Agency. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the military assets include eight U.S. F-22 stealth fighter jets recently sent to participate in the annual joint South Korea-U.S. air training.

“This act cannot be construed otherwise than a dangerous attempt to ruin the hard-won atmosphere of dialogue and bring the situation back to square one,” North Korea said. 

American detainees may be released

Trump also said Friday that the U.S. has been talking to North Korea about freeing three American citizens being detained there. Asked if they would be released, Trump said: “We’re having very substantive talks with North Korea.  And a lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages.”

He added: “Stayed tuned. I think you’re going to be seeing very, very good things.”

The three men —  Kim Hak-Song, also known as Jin Xue Song; Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-Duk; and Kim Dong-Chul — were seized between 2015 and 2017 and accused of a variety of anti-state offenses.

Trump: “Maximum pressure” to continue

The White House has said its pressure campaign on North Korea will continue until the North dismantles its nuclear program.

In a phone call following the North-South summit, Trump and Moon agreed “the unprecedented pressure applied by the United States, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the international community through the global Maximum Pressure Campaign has led to this significant moment,” according to an official readout of the call.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at his swearing-in ceremony last week, said the U.S. will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations when it comes to limiting the nuclear programs of rogue nations.

“We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program, and to do so without delay,” Pompeo said.

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