President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed direct contacts between the United States and North Korea and gave his blessing to talks aimed at formally ending the Korean War in a series of diplomatic revelations. Raising expectations for a major breakthrough at a series of upcoming summits, Trump said, “a great chance to solve a world problem” was within reach on the Korean peninsula. Side-by-side with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida resort, the US president said that a rare inter-Korean summit in 10 days time could, with his “blessing,” discuss an elusive peace treaty to formally close the 1950-53 conflict, which concluded with an armistice.
“People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war,” he said. “Subject to a deal they have my blessing and they do have my blessing to discuss that.” Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have not spoken directly, the White House said, but the US president confirmed that Washington and Pyongyang had been in contact at “very high levels” to prepare for a historic meeting between them.
The Washington Post reported that CIA director Mike Pompeo had met Kim on a secret trip to the North over the first weekend of April, shortly after he was nominated to be secretary of state. Both the White House and the CIA declined to comment on the report. “Five locations” were being considered for the summit with Kim, Trump said. “That will be taking place probably in early June or before that assuming things go well. Its possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken.” Officials say that no decision has yet been made on a meeting venue, but China, North Korea, South Korea, and Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas are seen as possible locations.
Panmunjom was the site of the signing of the 1953 armistice and will be the location of the April 27 summit between Kim and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Officials from the two Koreas were to meet Wednesday in preparation after Seoul’s culture minister — who sat next to Kim at a K-pop concert in Pyongyang earlier this month — said on Tuesday that Seoul “thinks that the inter-Korean summit should lead to the signing of a peace treaty”. The US-led United Nations command, China and North Korea are signatories to the half-century-old armistice, but most experts agree South Korea would likely have to sign any successor agreement — which could need extensive negotiations.