President Donald Trump said Friday that a date and location for his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been set and will be announced soon.
The talks, expected by early June, would amount to a historic opening with the hermit kingdom. The site of the meeting has been the subject of intense speculation since Trump agreed to Kim’s invitation in March.
Trump has expressed a preference for the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which he said would provide a celebratory backdrop should the talks succeed. But some advisers have cautioned that traveling there could appear conciliatory to Kim, and have suggested more neutral ground such as Singapore.
It wasn’t immediately clear when the location or date would be publicly revealed. The White House said it did not have any announcements to deliver on Friday morning after Trump spoke.
South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, is currently in Washington for talks with his US counterpart John Bolton. The site of the talks was likely to arise in their meeting, though broader issues of denuclearization were expected to dominate.
That also included the status of US troops on the Korean Peninsula, which Trump has stated publicly must be reconsidered as he focuses on rebuilding the American economy.
He denied on Friday he would use troop levels as a bargaining chip with Kim.
“At some point into the future, I would like to save the money,” he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing for Texas. “We have 32,000 troops there. But I think a lot of great things will happen. But troops are not on the table. Absolutely.”
On Thursday evening, The New York Times reported Trump had ordered the Pentagon to develop plans for reducing troop levels in South Korea. Bolton on Friday disputed the claim, calling it “utter nonsense.”
“The President has not asked the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American forces stationed in South Korea,” Bolton said in a statement.
Bolton also told Chung in a phone call Thursday evening the report was untrue, according to a US official. But the official acknowledged that Trump has publicly expressed frustrations at the cost and size of the US presence there, and said the issue would have to be addressed eventually.
The official said the troop withdrawal would not be on the table in talks with Kim, and that Kim has not raised this as a possibility ahead of the summit.
What is on the table, officials say, are the three Americans held prisoner in North Korea. The President and his allies have expressed optimism that the prisoners will be released ahead of the summit.
“We’re in constant contact with the leadership. We are in constant contact with North Korea,” Trump said on Friday.
Still, the fate of the Americans remains unclear. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News on Thursday they would be released within the day. But the White House said there was nothing to announce by Friday morning.