President Donald Trump on Monday suggested he’d like to hold his potential meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un near the border of North and South Korea, his first public suggestion of a venue amid the hotly watched deliberations over where to hold the historic summit.
“Numerous countries are being considered for the MEETING, but would Peace House/Freedom House, on the Border of North & South Korea, be a more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third party country? Just asking!” Trump tweeted.
At a joint news conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Monday afternoon, Trump told reporters that the location proposal has had mixed reception.
“I think that some people maybe don’t like the look of that and some people like it very much. I threw it out today as an idea,” Trump said.
Trump also said the idea of meeting at the DMZ was relayed to South Korean President Moon Jae-in and through Moon to the North Koreans.
“There’s something I like about it because you’re there. You’re actually there. Where if things work out there’s a great celebration to be had on the site, not in a third party country,” Trump added.
Last week, Trump said the list of potential sites for a summit had been narrowed down to two countries, and US officials said Singapore was their top choice. But Trump’s morning message showing a clear preference for the Demilitarized Zone is likely to cause a reassessment of the options among Trump’s advisers.
Negotiations over the summit site have been ongoing since Trump agreed in March to meet with Kim. Possible locations have included capitals in Europe and Mongolia, along with Singapore and other cities in Southeast Asia.
US officials previously said the Peace House along the fortified border between North and South Korea was an unlikely option, since it may appear to concede too much to Kim. Trump would need to travel halfway around the globe to meet there; Kim would need only to travel a few dozen miles.
But Trump was taken with the images broadcast from the historic meetings between Kim and\ Moon last week, and determined the venue would provide a suitable backdrop for his own talks, according to White House officials.
It would also solve one of the sticking points in selecting a location: how to transport Kim, who has a rickety fleet of Soviet-era aircraft, to the meeting point.
The Freedom House and Peace House are located in a truce village of Panmunjom on the South Korean side of the border.
During the Korean summit last week, Kim became the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korean territory since 1953. In an unscripted moment, Kim also invited Moon to step into the North.
The village was also the site of discussions between North and South Korea as to whether North Korea would participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.