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Korean Leaders Hold Surprise Summit    05/26 10:21

   North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met 
for the second time in a month on Saturday, holding a surprise summit at a 
border truce village to discuss Kim's potential meeting with President Donald 
Trump, Moon's office said.

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean 
President Moon Jae-in met for the second time in a month on Saturday, holding a 
surprise summit at a border truce village to discuss Kim's potential meeting 
with President Donald Trump, Moon's office said.

   Kim and Moon met hours after South Korea expressed relief over revived talks 
for a summit between Trump and Kim following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw 
Trump cancel the highly anticipated meeting before saying it's potentially back 
on.

   The quickly arranged meeting seemed to demonstrate Kim's urgency to secure a 
summit with Trump, which may provide his best shot at saving his economy from 
crushing sanctions and win security assurances in a region surrounded by 
enemies, analysts say.

   It remains unclear whether Kim would ever agree to fully abandon his nuclear 
arsenal in return. Moon has insisted Kim can be persuaded to abandon his 
nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way in 
exchange for credible security and economic guarantees.

   Moon, who brokered the summit between Washington and Pyongyang, likely used 
Saturday's meeting to confirm Kim's willingness to enter nuclear negotiations 
with Trump and clarify what steps Kim has in mind in the process of 
denuclearization, said Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul's Korea Institute 
for National Unification.

   "While Washington and Pyongyang have expressed their hopes for a summit 
through published statements, Moon has to step up as the mediator because the 
surest way to set the meeting in stone would be an official confirmation of 
intent between heads of states," Hong said.

   South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said Moon will reveal 
details of his meeting with Kim on Sunday.

   Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University and a policy 
adviser to Moon, said the two leaders likely discussed bridging the gap between 
Washington and Pyongyang on what a deal on the North's nuclear weapons would 
look like.

   U.S. officials have talked about a comprehensive one-shot deal in which 
North Korea fully eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later. But 
Kim, through two summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and May, 
has called for a phased and synchronized process in which every action he takes 
is met with a reciprocal reward from the United States.

   Koh said Moon would try to persuade Kim to accept an alternative approach 
advocated by Seoul, in which the North's comprehensive commitment and credible 
actions toward denuclearization are followed by a phased but compressed process 
of declaration, inspection and verifiable dismantling. Before he canceled the 
summit, Trump this past week did not rule out an incremental approach that 
would provide incentives along the way to the North.

   Trump tweeted earlier Saturday that a summit with Kim, if it does happen, 
will likely take place on June 12 in Singapore as originally planned.

   Following an unusually provocative 2017 in which his engineers tested a 
purported thermonuclear warhead and three long-range missiles theoretically 
capable of striking mainland U.S. cities, Kim has engaged in a flurry of 
diplomatic activity in recent months. In addition to his summits with Moon and 
Xi, Kim also has had two meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

   It wasn't immediately clear how the rival Koreas organized what appeared to 
be an emergency summit. Ahead of their first meeting last month, Kim and Moon 
established a hotline that they said would enable direct communication between 
the leaders and would be valuable to defuse crises, but it was unclear whether 
it was used to set up the latest meeting.

   Photos released by South Korea's presidential office showed Moon arriving at 
the North Korean side of the Panmunjom truce village and shaking hands with 
Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, before sitting down with Kim for their summit.

   Moon was accompanied by his spy chief, Suh Hoon, while Kim was joined by Kim 
Yong Chol, a former military intelligence chief who is now a vice chairman of 
the North Korean ruling party's central committee tasked with inter-Korean 
relations.

   The two leaders embraced as Moon departed.

   Moon's office said that during their two-hour meeting, the two leaders also 
discussed carrying out the peace commitments they agreed to at their first 
summit, held at the South Korean side of Panmunjom on April 27, but didn't 
elaborate.

   At their first meeting, Kim and Moon announced vague aspirations for a 
nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to 
sell as a meaningful breakthrough to set up the summit with Trump.

   But relations between the two Koreas chilled in recent weeks, with North 
Korea canceling a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea's 
participation in regular military exercises with the United States and 
insisting that it will not return to talks unless its grievances are resolved.

   South Korea was caught off guard by Trump's abrupt cancellation of his 
summit with Kim, with the U.S. president citing hostility in recent North 
Korean comments. Moon said Trump's decision left him "perplexed" and was "very 
regrettable." He urged Washington and Pyongyang to resolve their differences 
through "more direct and closer dialogue between their leaders."

   Trump's back-and-forth over his summit plans with Kim has exposed the 
fragility of Seoul as an intermediary. It fanned fears in South Korea that the 
country may lose its voice between a rival intent on driving a wedge between 
Washington and Seoul and an American president who thinks less of the 
traditional alliance with Seoul than his predecessors did.

   Trump's decision to pull out of the summit came just days after he hosted 
Moon at the White House, where he openly cast doubts on the Singapore meeting 
but offered no support for continued inter-Korean progress, essentially 
ignoring the North's recent attempts to coerce the South.

   In a letter to Kim announcing the cancellation, Trump objected specifically 
to a statement from senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui. Choe had 
referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" for earlier 
comments he made about North Korea and said it was up to the Americans whether 
they would "meet us at a meeting room or encounter us (in a) nuclear-to-nuclear 
showdown."

   North Korea issued an unusually restrained and diplomatic response to Trump, 
saying it was still willing to sit for talks with the United States "at any 
time, (in) any format."

   "The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a 
phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get 
worse," North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement 
carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, which mainly 
targets an external audience.

   Notably, the statement did not appear in Saturday's edition of Rodong 
Sinmun, which is the official mouthpiece of the North's ruling party and is 
widely read by North Koreans.


(KA)

 
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