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
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
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
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
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
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.