SOUTH / NORTH KOREA – South Korean President held a surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday to ensure a successful summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, South Korean officials said.
The meeting was the latest in a series of diplomatic developments in a week over an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea, and the strongest sign so far is that the leaders of the two Koreas are trying to keep the summit’s efforts on track.
The two-hour talks between Moon and Kim in Panmunjom village came a month after they held their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, in which they announced that the two countries would work to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and end the Korean War Between 1950 and 1953.
“The two leaders frankly exchanged views on making the summit between North Korea and the United States successful and on the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration,” the South Korean presidential spokesman said in a statement. The spokesman did not say how the meeting was arranged nor the party that requested it.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment, but White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said a White House team would head to Singapore at the weekend to prepare for a possible summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader.
Reuters reported a few days ago that the group was scheduled to discuss the topics and arrangements for the summit with North Korean officials.
Moon returned to Seoul on Thursday after a meeting with Trump in Washington last week. Moon is due to announce Sunday morning details of his meeting with Kim. This comes as part of efforts to keep the summit on schedule on June 12 in Singapore.
One of the pictures, published by the Blue House for Saturday’s meeting, showed Moon and Kim hugging after the meeting in a building on the northern side of the border in the truce village. The previous inter-Korean summit was held on the southern side of the border.
The two leaders were accompanied by South Korean intelligence chief Soeh Hoon and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yongchul, who is in charge of inter-Korean relations. Another photo showed Moon shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Yum-jung.
– “Constructive talks” –
Trump said on Friday Washington was in “constructive talks” with Pyongyang over the June 12 summit in Singapore, a day after its cancellation.
“We are having very constructive discussions with North Korea about the summit meeting again, if it is likely to remain in Singapore at the same time, June 12,” Trump said in a tweet on Twitter late on Friday. If necessary, it will be extended beyond this date.”
Trump hinted earlier on the possibility of saving the summit after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea and said he remained open to talks.
“The statement they issued was very nice,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We’ll see what happens. We are talking to them now. May (convene the summit) in the twelfth. They want to do so. We want to do that. ”
Trump’s comment on the summit meeting with North Korea’s leader came a day after he canceled the meeting because of what he called “overt hostility” by Pyongyang.
A senior White House official said on Thursday the June 12 summit could be a challenge given the need for a dialogue to clearly define the issues to be discussed at the summit.
Analysts warned that if the summit is not held, there will again be a specter of military confrontation between the two countries, while its contract will represent the biggest external political achievement of Trump.
North Korea’s Trump Administration demands that it renounce its nuclear weapons program completely and irreversibly.
– Threats and insults –
Kim and Trump agreed this month to the summit after years of tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In the event of a summit, the first will be between a US president and a North Korean leader. Plans for the summit came months after a war of words that saw threats and mutual insults between the two leaders over North Korea’s development of missiles that could reach the United States.
Trump canceled the summit in Singapore in a letter sent to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats from North Korea to withdraw from what it saw as statements by challenging US officials demanding unilateral disarmament. Trump attributed the reason for the cancellation of the summit to hostility from North Korea.
In Pyongyang, Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s deputy foreign minister, said his country’s recent criticism of certain US officials was a reaction to US remarks and that the current differences illustrated the “urgent need” for the summit.
He said North Korea regrets Trump’s decision to cancel the summit and remains open to solving problems “in any way and at any time.”
He noted that North Korea appreciates Trump’s bold decision to seek a summit meeting with Pyongyang.
“We hope in our hearts to help the so-called Trump formula to calm the fears of both sides and meet our demands and be a wise tool with a significant impact in resolving the matter.”
North Korea has also moved forward in its efforts to dismantle its only known nuclear test site on Thursday, the most concrete step since a pledge last month to halt all nuclear tests and long-range missile tests.
Dozens of international journalists left North Korea on Saturday after continuing to destroy the bungee-rye site, which consists of underground tunnels from which all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests, including the last and largest test, were conducted in September.
The latest sudden change in Trump’s position has caused confusion in Washington. Defense Minister Jim Matisse told reporters the diplomats were “still working” and said Trump had sent a warning about the summit, which could be held “if our diplomats could put it back on track.”
State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: “As the president said in his speech to President Kim, dialogue between the two countries is the only important dialogue. “If North Korea is serious, we look forward to hearing from high levels.”
The White House spokeswoman told reporters Trump did not want the meeting to be “just a political wonder.”
“He wants to get a long lasting order and a real solution. If they are ready to do so … we are certainly ready to hold these talks.”