Trump: North Korea summit plans set; drawdown not on table

meeting with Kim seemed outlandish just a few months ago when the two leaders were trading threats

President Donald Trump tells reporters a time and place for his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has been set and will be announced soon, as he leaves for Dallas to address the National Rifle Association, in Washington, Friday, May 4, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Donald Trump offered his latest teaser Friday for a historic U.S. summit with North Korea: The time and place have been set but he’s not saying when and where.

The White House did, however, announce the details of a separate meeting later this month between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as the U.S. administration pushed back on a report that Trump is considering the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the allied nation.

Trump and Moon would meet at the White House on May 22 to “continue their close co-ordination on developments regarding the Korean Peninsula” following last Friday’s meeting between Moon and Kim Jong Un. They will also discuss the U.S. president’s own upcoming summit with the North Korean leader, a statement said.

Earlier this week, Trump expressed a preference for holding the “big event” with Kim in the demilitarized zone or DMZ between the two Koreas, where Moon and Kim met. He also said Singapore was in contention to host what will be the first summit of between a U.S. and a North Korean leader.

“We now have a date and we have a location. We’ll be announcing it soon,” Trump told reporters Friday from the White House South Lawn before departing for Dallas. He’s previously said the summit was planned for May or early June.

A meeting with Kim seemed an outlandish possibility just a few months ago when the two leaders were trading threats and insults over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. But momentum for diplomacy has built this year as the rival Koreas have patched up ties. In March, Trump unexpectedly accepted an offer of talks from Kim after the North Korean dictator agreed to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests and discuss “denuclearization.”

According to South Korea, Kim has said he’d be willing to give up his nukes if the United States commits to a formal end to the Korean War and pledges not to attack the North. But his exact demands for relinquishing weapons that his nation spent decades building remains unclear.

Trump said that withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea is “not on the table.” Some 28,500 U.S. forces are based in the allied nation, a military presence that has been preserved to deter North Korea since the war ended in 1953 without a peace treaty.

“Now I have to tell you, at some point into the future, I would like to save the money,” Trump said later as he prepared to board Air Force One. “You know we have 32,000 troops there but I think a lot of great things will happen but troops are not on the table. Absolutely.”

The New York Times reported that Trump has asked the Pentagon to prepare options plans for drawing down American troops. It cited unnamed officials as saying that wasn’t intended to be a bargaining chip with Kim, but did reflect that a prospective peace treaty between the Koreas could diminish the need for U.S. forces in South Korea.

At the inter-Korean summit last Friday, held on the southern side of the DMZ, Moon and Kim pledged to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons and seek a formal end this year to the Korean conflict where the opposing sides remain technically at war more than six decades after fighting halted with an armistice.

But for Trump to contemplate withdrawing troops now would be a quixotic move as he enters into negotiations with Kim whose demands and intentions are uncertain. Two weeks ago, shortly before the inter-Korean summit, Moon said that Kim actually wasn’t insisting on a longstanding demand for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as a precondition for abandoning his nukes.

National security adviser John Bolton, who met his South Korean counterpart Chung Eui-yong in Washington on Friday, called the Times report “utter nonsense.”

During his presidential campaign, Trump complained that South Korea does not do enough to financially support the American military commitment. In March, Washington and Seoul began negotiations on how much South Korea should offset the costs of the deployment in the coming years. Under the current agreement that expires at the end of 2018, the South provides about $830 million per year.

Before Trump meets Kim, Washington is looking for North Korea to address another persistent source of tension between the adversaries: the detention of three Korean-Americans accused of anti-state of activities in the North.

Trump hinted that the release of Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim was in the offing, but again was sparing on the details.

“We’re having very substantive talks with North Korea and a lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages, and I think you’re going to see very good things. As I said yesterday, stay tuned,” Trump said, referring to an earlier tweet on the issue.

Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

Matthew Pennington And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Next Parksville OrganWORX concert is back from outer space on Feb. 3

Bob McDonald hopes to provide grander view of the world in science talk/musical performance

Qualicum’s interim superintendent to continue on through April 30

SD69 awaits Rollie Koop’s return from medical leave

Support pours in for Bowser couple whose home was destroyed by massive blaze

GoFundMe page reached $10,000 in one day for soon-to-be parents

Councillor has concerns about Qualicum Beach pot shop decision

Debate over location, public consultation and timing continues, though commitment already made

Oceanside RCMP arrest man wanted on several outstanding warrants

Hudson David Klassen, 26, picked up in Parksville

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Vancouver Island charity thrift store blackened by late night fire

All Too Good to be Threw profits were used to support Comox Valley Transition society programs

Vancouver Island to get its first publicly funded dementia village

Campus planned for Comox encourages independent activity, freedom to move

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Truck convoy honouring Nanaimo boy who died after being struck by vehicle

Trucks left from Victoria and others joined along the way up the Island

Most Read