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Search is on for best summit site for Trump Kim

Issued: 2018-03-10

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev chose Reykjavik, Iceland. Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin huddled at Yalta. Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev will always have Paris.

So where should President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un meet up for the first face-to-face talks between a U.S. and North Korean president?

The Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea is one possibility. Sweden has offered to help. And there's always neutral Geneva, Switzerland.

Someplace in Asia perhaps — such as Beijing — hasn't been ruled out. Nor, for that matter, has a ship in international waters.

The question crackled through diplomatic and government circles Friday, one day after a South Korean official announced in the dark on a White House driveway that the two heads of state who had threatened mutual obliteration for months would take a meeting.

It's not clear what location is suitable for leaders who have sniped at each other — "Little Rocket Man" vs. "senile dotard" — in nerve-rattling Twitter exchanges about nuclear war.

"It's all about optics, from their first handshake," said Lisa Collins, a Korea scholar and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There are 70 years of historical baggage between the two countries ... so to have the meeting in a place that's a safe location and one that doesn't overly highlight the differences between the two countries would probably be the best."

The White House wasn't offering suggestions in the hours after the announcement.

Trump, a former reality TV star, understands well the value of "optics." But symbolism, security and practicality also come into play. Holding talks in either the U.S. or North Korea seem unlikely. Traveling to North Korea risks conferring legitimacy on Kim and his country.

As for Kim: Except for schooling in Switzerland and perhaps some vacations during that time, it's not clear that Kim has left North Korea. So Mar-a-Lago, the president's Florida estate that was good enough for Chinese President Xi Jinping last April, probably won't do this time.

More likely is the no-man's-land of Peace Village in the DMZ's Panmunjom. There is a building there with a line through the middle that marks the border — and was the site of the 1953 armistice. Theoretically, Kim could shake Trump's hand by reaching over the line without ever setting foot outside North Korea. And Trump's been wanting to visit the DMZ, anyway. A shrouded-in-secrecy stop there during Trump's tour of Asia last year was scrubbed due to bad weather.


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