Could Trump and Kim Jong-un meet in Switzerland?

The news that the US president has accepted an invitation to sit down to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sparked speculation about where such a meeting could talk place.

Could Trump and Kim Jong-un meet in Switzerland?
A South Korean soldier walks past a television screen showing pictures of Trump and Kim Jong-un March 9th . Photo: AFP

Among the options being touted for the talks about North Korea’s controversial nuclear and missile programme is Switzerland, and more specifically, Geneva.

“Switzerland is talking to all parties involved,” Federal Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Carole Wälti told Swiss tabloid Blick of the talks.

“It is up to the parties involved to decide if, when and where they want to hold talks,” she said.

Meanwhile, Swiss government spokesperson André Simonazzi on Friday told journalists that Switzerland welcomed the talks. But he said the meeting had not been discussed by the government, Swiss daily NZZ reported.

Simonazzi did, however, add that Switzerland provided a good service.

Among the factors favouring Switzerland are its neutrality and long history of hosting such talks, including, famously, the 1985 summit involving Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva. The city also played host from 1997 to 1999 to talks involving the US, China and both Koreas.

In addition, Switzerland was home to bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at restarting stalled six-party negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

Also in Switzerland’s favour when it comes to finding a venue for the upcoming historic meeting is the fact that Kim Jong-un actually attended school in Switzerland for several years.

In addition, Switzerland has for decades played a small but highly symbolic role in ensuring the continuation of the ceasefire between North Korea and South Korea.

A small contingent of Swiss soldiers, along with a Swedish unit – Sweden is also a serious contender for the summit – are based in the South Korean section of the demilitarized zone between the two countries as part of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.

North Korea also came up for discussion when Swiss President Alain Berset met with Donald Trump during the World Economic Forum 2018 in Davos. It is not known, however, what the two leaders discussed.

But as Jim Walsh with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s security studies programme told UK newspaper The Guardian what really matters in these talks is not where they are held but what is discussed.