Donald Trump and his one-time foe Kim Jong-un will meet for a historic summit on June 12th in Singapore, the US president announced yesterday.
Mr Trump revealed the date and location of the meeting 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!”
The announcement came hours after three American citizens who had been detained in North Korea returned to the US. The release of the hostages had long been viewed as a prerequisite for the summit.
The scheduled meeting marks an extraordinary turnaround for two men who sparred publicly last year when North Korea and the US appeared to come dangerously close to nuclear war. The communist state accelerated its nuclear activity last year, launching what it said was its first long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, and testing its most powerful hydrogen bomb to date.
In response, Mr Trump warned last August that any nuclear threat by North Korea would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
But a thaw in relations developed earlier this year when a North Korean delegation attended the Winter Olympics in South Korea. This led to the first meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea last month, a key step in the road to a possible summit with the US president. Mr Kim announced ahead of the inter-Korean summit that his country would stop nuclear tests and the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, though he did not commit to denuclearisation.
The summit on June 12th follows high-level diplomatic contacts between the US and North Korea.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo held his second meeting with Mr Kim in six weeks in Pyongyang this week. He met the North Korean leader for 90 minutes and secured the release of the three American hostages.
South Korean leader Moon Jae-in will travel to Washington for a meeting with the US president on May 22nd ahead of the historic summit.
Mr Trump also discussed the June 12th meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during a phonecall on Thursday . "The president and prime minister committed to maintaining trilateral co-operation with the Republic of Korea, and also affirmed the shared goal of North Korea abandoning its illicit weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes," the White House said in a statement.
Questioned by reporters as he greeted the returning detainees at Joint Base Andrews in the early hours of Thursday morning, Mr Trump declined to confirm whether he had spoken to Mr Kim himself. But he said: “I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful. And if anybody would have said that five years ago, 10 years ago, even a year ago, you would have said that’s not possible. So.. A lot of very good things have happened.”
Confirmation of the forthcoming summit emerged just days after Mr Trump announced America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Separately, Gina Haspel, Mr Trump's nominee to succeed Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA, faced a setback on Thursday after veteran senator John McCain said he would not endorse her nomination due to her involvement in disputed interrogation methods in 2002.
Republicans hold only a slim majority in the Senate. While long-time McCain ally Lindsay Graham said he would vote for Ms Gaspel, outgoing senator Jeff Flake said he had not yet decided.