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Planning Trump-Kim Meeting: Who Sits Where, What Will They Eat and Who Pays?

Perhaps the biggest advantage for the United States in holding the meeting in Singapore is that it is not in Pyongyang, where the North Koreans would control every detail.

“Having this in Singapore is a big plus because you’re not at the mercy of the North Koreans,” Ms. Sherman said.

During Ms. Albright’s trip to Pyongyang in 2000, North Korean officials were “unable really to commit to specific times and places, and we did not find out where and when Secretary Albright would meet with Kim Jong-il until she arrived,” said Thomas Hubbard, a former American diplomat and ambassador to Seoul and the Philippines who helped plan Ms. Albright’s trip and accompanied her to Pyongyang.

With optics likely to play as big a role as substance in the Singapore meeting, the third-country location should prevent North Korea from staging a propaganda coup as it did when Kim Jong-il took Ms. Albright to a mass stadium event in Pyongyang, where she had to sit next to him at a spectacle of performers celebrating the cult of their leader.

The younger Mr. Kim could still pull off a propaganda victory even if he’s not at home. In his first meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in April at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, Mr. Kim captivated the world with a simple gesture when he held out his hand and suggested that Mr. Moon briefly step over the demarcation line to the North.

Diplomats who have previously met with North Korean officials said the North Koreans could foil well-laid plans simply by refusing to participate or by changing their tone.

“The American diplomats should be careful,” said Takeo Harada, a former Japanese diplomat who was the chief desk officer for the North Korean desk in the Foreign Ministry when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang. “Even though they could be very friendly during preparation talks, you never know how the North Korean side would behave in the last moment during the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un.”

Source: NYT > World

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