WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump said on Thursday (May 10) he had high hopes of "doing something very meaningful" to curtail North Korea's nuclear ambitions at a summit in Singapore next month, after Pyongyang smoothed the way for talks by freeing three American prisoners.
The date and location of the first-ever meeting of a sitting US president and a North Korean leader were announced by Trump on Twitter.
"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump wrote.
He made the announcement after a US government aircraft touched down at Joint Base Andrews near Washington carrying the Americans who were released by North Korea in a move to clear the way for the bilateral summit.
White House officials, without providing specifics, said on Thursday the meeting could be scuttled if North Korea did anything unacceptable over the next month.
"We're not under any illusions about who these people are," National Security Council official Victoria Coates told reporters.
"We know who we're dealing with here. But we got up front our people home rather than that having been an afterthought."
'PHOTO OP' WORRY
Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the US Senate, warned Trump against going too far, too fast in Singapore. The Republican president, he said, should insist on strong, verifiable disarmament commitments from North Korea.
"I worry that this president, in his eagerness to strike a deal and get the acclaim and a photo op, will strike a quick one and a bad one, not a strong one, not a lasting one," Schumer said.
The choice of Singapore will put the summit on friendly turf for Trump, as the island nation is a strong US ally and the US Navy frequently visits its port.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said Singapore was chosen because it could ensure the security of both leaders and provide neutrality.
The wealthy financial and shipping hub is seen as a gateway between Asia and the West and has been called the "Switzerland of Asia," in contrast to North Korea's isolated economy that its leaders now want to modernise.
Singapore said in a statement late on Thursday it was pleased to host the meeting between Trump and Kim, adding: "We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula."
US officials had looked at several sites other than Singapore for the historic meeting.
Trump's own preference was for the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas, but aides argued it would look too much like Trump going to Kim's turf.
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In held a rare round of talks at their heavily fortified DMZ at the end of April, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict.
South Korea said on Thursday: "We hope the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, as well as permanent peace on the peninsula, will successfully come about through this summit."