U.S.-North Korea summit set for June 12

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be held June 12 in Singapore.

The announcement came in a tweet just hours after Trump met the three recently freed American hostages at Joint Base Andrews, where they arrived in the middle of the night after their release by North Korea.

The summit will be the first face-to-face meeting between a sitting U.S. president and the North Korean leader. Releasing the hostages removed a significant obstacle for Trump as he heads into the peace talks.

A senior U.S. official said their release was a U.S. condition to the talks.

The president praised Kim and said he was "nice in letting them go before the meeting." Last year Trump and Kim threatened nuclear war against each other's countries.

"We're starting off on a new footing," Trump said early Thursday.

Trump hopes to convince Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons and the missiles that can carry them.

When Trump greeted the hostages in the early morning hours, he told reporters that his proudest achievement will be "when we denuclearize that entire peninsula."

"Hopefully everything is going to work out at the highest level," Trump said earlier Thursday. "We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he could not understand the praise Kim was receiving from Trump and others for releasing the three prisoners.

"We can't be fooled into giving the North Korean regime credit for returning Americans that never should have been detained in the first place. American citizens are not diplomatic bargaining chips," Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. "So while we celebrate the return of the three Americans for the sake of their freedom and their families, we should not feel like we need to give Kim Jong Un anything in return."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., congratulated the Trump administration for what he described as a "significant step."

"I share in the hopes of our entire nation that the June 12th meeting will further our longtime goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula," McConnell said in a statement Thursday. "This is as close as we've ever come to a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons," McConnell added in a Twitter post.

The hostages, who were being held in North Korea on charges of committing espionage or unidentified "hostile acts" against the nation, faced different treatment from the North Koreans.

One man, Kim Dong-chul, said he had to do "a lot of labor," but, he said, when he was sick, he received treatment. The three men were taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for testing.

Even as Trump praised Kim for how the hostages were treated, he acknowledged that another American hostage, Otto F. Warmbier, "really suffered" while he was in the North's custody. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, died last June, just days after he was released from 17 months of North Korean captivity. In September, Trump said, "Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea."

The president recently ruled out a meeting site in the Demilitarized Zone, the strip of land that divides the Koreas. Singapore, while considered a more neutral site, is a common port of call for American warships.

Singapore hosts a major international port and the U.S. Navy operates a logistics headquarters there.

In determining the location of the meeting, officials also had to consider the limited places where Kim could travel due to his nation's aging fleet of

Soviet-era aircraft.

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