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'Dramatic' Change Made Trump-Kim Meeting Possible

'Great progress being made,' Trump says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2018 4:27 AM CST
Updated Mar 9, 2018 6:39 AM CST
'Dramatic' Change Made Trump-Kim Meeting Possible
A woman walks by a huge screen showing President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Tokyo on Friday.   (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

(Newser) – The White House has confirmed news that stunned Korea-watchers late Thursday: President Trump is planning to meet Kim Jong Un before the end of May, in a location yet to be determined. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the meeting was made possible by a "dramatic" change in posture from the North Korean leader, the AP reports. He said Trump decided to accept the invitation after Kim displayed a surprisingly "forward-leaning" attitude in talks with a South Korean delegation. Tillerson said it will take "some weeks" to arrange a date for the meeting. In other coverage:

  • Location TBD. No location for the meeting has been set, though Mar-a-Lago is probably a long shot, the Guardian reports. Experts say that while there's a chance Kim could visit Washington or Trump could visit Pyongyang, more neutral potential venues include China, South Korea, or the DMZ.

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  • A "real challenge" for diplomats. Analysts say it's going to be tough for the State Department to assemble a team that can support the historic summit. "The State Department has hemorrhaged Korean linguists and former negotiators," and North Korea "will send people with 30 years of experience," Douglas H. Paal at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tells the Washington Post. "This is a real challenge."
  • Trump optimism. Trump sounded optimistic about the meeting Thursday night. "Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze," he tweeted. "Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!"
  • Talks, not negotiations. A senior administration official tells the Los Angeles Times that at this point, "we're not really talking about negotiations." Trump "has been very clear from the beginning that he is not prepared to reward North Korea in exchange for talks," the official says. "But he is willing to accept an invitation at this time to meet and to allow—and really expects—North Korea to put action to these words that were conveyed via the South Koreans."

  • "Like a miracle." South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said news of the meeting "came like a miracle," the BBC reports. "If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest," he said.
  • Is Trump being played? Analysts say the summit is a massive gamble—one that risks legitimizing one of the world's worst human-rights abusers. "We got nothing for it. And Kim will never give up his nukes," Obama administration Asia adviser Evan S. Medeiros tells the New York Times. "Kim played Moon and is now playing Trump."
  • Other high-level meetings. Trump is set to become the first sitting president to meet a North Korean leader, though Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton visited North Korea after their presidencies ended, with Carter meeting then-leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, the AP reports. Dennis Rodman, another American to have visited North Korea, congratulated Trump late Thursday, adding: "Please send my regards to Marshal Kim Jong Un and his family."

  • "Diving right in." Critics warn that there's little chance the US can be ready in a matter of weeks to have a high-stakes meeting on denuclearization, the New York Daily News reports. "Summits normally come at the end of a long series of negotiations at lower levels in which lots of devils in the details r hammered out," tweeted Robert Kelly at Pusan National University. "Trump, always the publicity-seeker, is just diving right in."
  • International reaction. News of the meeting was welcomed in Beijing and Moscow, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling it a "step in the right direction." South Koreans also welcomed the news, with some saying Moon should win the Nobel Peace Prize for laying the groundwork, Reuters reports.
  • "Dotard meets Rocket Man." The New York Times looks at some of the most "colorful" exchanges between Kim and Trump in the tense year leading up to the breakthrough.
(Read more North Korea stories.)

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