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Ulan Bator? A ship at sea? The logistical nightmare of picking a venue for Trump to meet with Kim Jong Un

Jessica Meyers, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

BEIJING -- In less than three months, President Donald Trump is supposed to reset history by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader. But there's still one key omission in this momentous undertaking: where they will meet.

Mongolia and Sweden have offered to host the president and Kim Jong Un, the 34-year-old ruler Trump calls "Little Rocket Man." Seoul advocates the "Peace House" between North and South Korea. Beijing could get its chance as a global mediator. There's always neutral Switzerland, where Kim attended public school. How about a ship in international waters? Why not Guam?

Let's face it: This isn't a typical situation. Kim hasn't stepped foot outside North Korea since taking power in 2011. And yet a Trump visit to isolated Pyongyang portends logistical chaos. It's difficult enough when he's in New York.

The two leaders spent recent months vowing to destroy each other; these are not men for quiet, understated events.

"Both have a flair for melodrama and grand statements and big stages," said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at Sydney, Australia's Lowy Institute. "The whole point of this is to gain attention."

Here's a look at potential sites:


Optics matter when it comes to planning historic events. North and South Vietnam argued about the shape of the negotiating table during the 1968 Paris Peace talks. (They settled for two square tables separated by a round one.)

Kim aspires for the world to see his country as a peer to the United States, and he may view a trip to Washington as proof.

"Every North Korean leader has wanted to meet the U.S. on equal footing, and being recognized in the U.S. is the highest level of recognition," said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, who studies North Korea.


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