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North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South’s President Moon Jae-in meet again amid shaky US summit plans

Outcome of the two-hour meeting will be announced on Sunday

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2018, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2018, 7:06am

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday to discuss Kim’s possible upcoming summit with US President Donald Trump, the South said, the second inter-Korean summit in as many months. 

The two leaders met just north of the heavily militarised border in the afternoon to exchange views to pave the way for a summit between North Korea and the United States, South Korea’s presidential office said.

Moon will announce the outcome of his two-hour meeting with Kim on Sunday morning, officials said.

A statement from North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Kim expressed “his fixed will” on the possibility of meeting with Trump as previously planned on June 12.

It also said Kim and Moon agreed to hold high-level talks between their two nations on June 1.

The meeting at the Panmunjom border truce village came 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 was potentially back on.

Was Donald Trump flattered into reversing his decision to cancel summit with Kim Jong-un?

Diplomatic observers earlier said cancelling the summit would increase the risk of confrontation over the Korean peninsula and push Pyongyang closer to Beijing, while the US would become more suspicious of how China managed its relations with the North.

At an international economic forum in St Petersburg on Friday, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan said it was vitally important for the US and North Korean leaders to meet to maintain regional stability, and the cancellation was just a “brief interlude”.

“Both the US president and the North Korean remarks have left some leeway,” Wang said. “I believe one of the keys to the peace and stability of the peninsula is the US-DPRK relations, and a summit between them is essential.”

Wang said China as a stakeholder would never allow war or chaos on the Korean peninsula, and the Chinese government resolutely upheld the goal of a nuclear-free peninsula.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is closely linked to the interests of China,” he said. “China does not want war on the Korean peninsula and this is China’s bottom line.”

Trump says Kim summit could still happen, as China worries about being caught in US-North Korea crossfire

On Saturday, Kim Chang-son, who has been serving as de facto chief of staff to Kim Jong-un, was seen at a Beijing airport taking an Air Koryo flight to Pyongyang, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The report, quoting unnamed sources, said Kim Chang-son’s trip to Beijing started on Thursday and could mean another China visit by the North Korean leader. But the official could also have been en route to Singapore to prepare for the US-North Korea summit, and possibly his plan changed after Trump cancelled the meeting.

Trump and Kim first agreed to meet in March, and the White House announced the summit would be held in Singapore on June 12. In a surprise decision, Trump called off the meeting on Thursday, blaming “open hostility” from North Korea.

Just a day after the cancellation, however, Trump said the US and North Korea were “having very productive talks” and there was still a chance the meeting would be held in Singapore on the same date.

“Everybody plays games,” Trump declared on Friday. “They very much want to do it; we’d like to do it.”

North Korea tag-team diplomacy takes a hit as Trump learns that loose lips sink summits 

The sweetening tone was just the latest change in a roller-coaster game of brinkmanship – talks about talks with two unpredictable world leaders trading threats and blandishments. On Thursday, White House officials noted that Trump had left the door open with a letter to Kim that blamed “tremendous anger and open hostility” by Pyongyang but also urged Kim to call him.

While the president did not detail the nature of the new US communication with the North on Friday, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said at the Pentagon, “The diplomats are still at work on the summit, possibility of a summit, so that is very good news.” He characterised the recent back-and-forth as the “usual give and take”.

A senior White House official said the North had reneged on its promises ahead of the summit, including a pledge to allow international inspectors to monitor its explosive destruction of its nuclear test site.

Trump’s aides had warned that merely agreeing to the summit had provided Kim with long-sought international legitimacy and, if Trump ultimately backed out, he risked fostering the perception that the president was insufficiently committed to diplomatic solutions to the nuclear question.

Trump said earlier that Chinese President Xi Jinping had influenced Kim to change his mind. Kim made his first trip to China in March, and in another surprising move, he visited Dalian earlier this month to have a second summit with Xi.

Reuters and Associated Press