A man reads a copy of the Munhwa Ilbo newspaper featuring U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the front page in Seoul, South Korea. (Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg)

Trump Says Planning for Historic Kim Meeting `Going Very Well'

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said details of his potential summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are being ironed out, and that he’d spoken with the leaders of South Korea and Japan about preparations for the historic meeting.

“Things are going very well, time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set,” the president said on Twitter. The call early Saturday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in was “a long and very good talk,” Trump said.

On Friday, Trump said that the potential location of a meeting with the North Korean leader had been narrowed down to two or three locations that he didn’t specify, adding “hopefully we’re going to have great success.”

“I don’t think he’s playing,” Trump said Friday of Kim, who earlier held a historic meeting with South Korea’s Moon. The two agreed to work toward formally ending their decades-long war and pursue the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

“We will, I think, come up with a solution and, if we don’t, we leave the room with great respect and we just keep it going,” said Trump, speaking to reporters at the beginning of a meeting in the Oval Office with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Later, at a joint news conference with Merkel, the U.S. president added that he and Kim “have a very good working relationship” and “a lot of good things are happening.”

Momentum Building

Trump has said he hopes to meet with Kim by early June to try to resolve a standoff between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He’d previously said the two countries were looking at five locations for the summit, which would be the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president.

A South Korean newspaper reported this week that short list of locations for the summit had been whittled down to Mongolia and Singapore.

“A lot of very positive things happened over the last 24 hours,” Trump said. “We’ll be setting up a meeting very shortly. We have it broken down to probably two sites now, two or three sites, locations. And hopefully we’re going to have great success.”

Trump hailed Friday’s Moon-Kim meeting, declaring “KOREAN WAR TO END!” on Twitter.

South Korea had long refused to participate in talks to end the Korean War, leaving an uneasy truce between North Korea and China on one side and United Nations forces -- led by the U.S. -- on the other.

Enduring Threat

Although China long ago withdrew its troops, more than 28,000 American personnel remain based in South Korea, which the Kim regime views as an enduring threat.

The meeting between the two Korean leaders produced unprecedented scenes, starting with Kim’s step over the ankle-high concrete slab dividing the two nations -- and then his walk back across the border, hand-in-hand with Moon. Later, the leaders planted a tree and talked privately for 30 minutes with television cameras rolling.

Kim called for frequent meetings between the leaders. And he capped it off with live remarks to reporters, something no other North Korean leader had done before.

‘Bad Manners’

It remains to be seen whether North Korea will meet Trump’s demand to give up its nuclear weapons and missiles.

One ominous sign was commentary from North Korean state-run media following the Korean leaders’ meeting calling on the U.S. to drop its “anachronistic hostile policy” and “bad manners.” It declared North Korea a “world-level politico-ideological and military power” and said it would contribute to building “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Still, new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with Kim over the Easter weekend, said he has “a sense” that the North Korean leader is serious about denuclearization. Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday, less than 24 hours after being sworn in, Pompeo echoed some of Trump’s favorite phrases, saying an agreement with Kim would be a “wonderful thing.”

Trump said Saturday that he’d spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “to inform him of the ongoing negotiations.” On Friday, Trump tweeted his thanks to China’s president Xi Jinping on North Korea. “Without him it would have been a much longer, tougher, process!”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.