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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/29/18

The Big Secret -- Where the U.S. and North Korea Will Meet

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Message Arshad M Khan

This piece is unusual in that it is either going to end up as a fiasco or a scoop. If the latter, then, as they say ... remember you read it here first.

The possible venues floated by the White House include two European locations: Sweden and Switzerland. But we all know Mr. Kim Jong-un has a chronic phobia of flying, so places not easily accessible by his personal train are unlikely. Train travel to these two European nations would take both unduly long and include journeying through countries not particularly friendly to the PDRK.

Singapore is a successful, dynamic city state steeped in the capitalist model. A democratically elected government notwithstanding, officials can be autocratic. It has also had diplomatic relations with North Korea since the 1970s. But there is one big problem. To travel by train from North Korea Mr. Kim would have to go through Malaysia ... the place where his agents killed the playboy brother.

Mongolia has also been suggested. It is an old friend to North Korea and provided some assistance during the Korean war. Would that mean though that Mr. Trump is going too close to the Kim home base and appearing a supplicant as he would were he meeting in Pyongyang or Beijing or even Moscow.

So, what's left?

Well, Kazakhstan has a lot going for it. In the first place, it has extremely good relations with South Korea, while its government by contrast has its roots in the Soviet system. Effusive congratulatory messages from its Foreign Minister were in order recently just prior to the North-South Korean summit. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president, invited by Trump for a state visit in January 2018, volunteered his country's help as a role model for North Korea -- Kazakhstan, having disposed of its own nuclear weapons after leaving the Soviet Union, has become an advocate for a nuclear-free world.

The Kazakhs will do everything to please their South Korean friends. Kazakhstan benefits from trade and South Korean investment. It is its largest trading partner in Central Asia after Uzbekistan.

By an odd quirk of fate, the Soviet Union deported thousands of resident Koreans to Central Asia. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule at the time, and the Soviets feared there would be spies among them. They call themselves Koryo-saram --- Koryo being a word for Korea and saram meaning people -- and are estimated to number about 100,000. They are also a link drawing the two countries together.

Given Kim Jong-un's penchant for secrecy, it is not surprising there is no mention of Kazakhstan. He would want it that way. The train journey is straight across China where Kim feels safe. And Kazakhstan's relative neutrality means Trump is not giving much away in meeting there ... he will not appear to be a suppliant.

There is one other very big reason why Kazakhstan is the likely venue. John Mappin is said to thinks so, and is probably betting on it. Who is John Mappin? He is the man who was sure as early as 2015 that Donald Trump would win the election. His $3,000 bet spread among different bookmakers earned him almost $110,000.

Who would want to bet against this guy?

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
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