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US, NK gear up for second summit

Moon goes all out to convince skeptics in Washington

With US President Donald Trump officially announcing his plans to hold a second meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, the question now is whether the news will revive the momentum for the stalled denuclearization talks. 

During his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday, Trump said he will meet with Kim “in the not too distant future.” A day later, Moon told Fox News that the Trump-Kim summit could take place before the end of this year.

Preparations are underway between the two sides’ top diplomats. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho arrived in New York on Tuesday to attend the United Nations General Assembly, where he is expected to deliver a speech on Saturday. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who proposed a meeting with Ri in New York, expressed hopes of traveling to Pyongyang. Washington has also invited North Korean representatives to a meeting in Vienna with Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea.

President Moon Jae-in (left) responds to questions from the audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday. Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in (left) responds to questions from the audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday. Yonhap

There has been no specific announcement yet on the location for the second US-North Korea summit. Trump only said the meeting would “most likely” be held at a location other than Singapore, where the first summit took place in June.

However, Trump said his second meeting with Kim would take a “similar format” to the Singapore summit, raising speculation that the meeting might take place in a third country.

“Holding the summit at Pyongyang or Washington is unlikely, because the level of trust between North Korea and the US is still low,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute, a Seoul-based think tank.

While the location has yet to be determined, Trump said Monday he would make the announcement “pretty soon,” offering details about the summit and when it would take place. 

Experts in Seoul say Trump wants an early summit with Kim to distract American voters from political scandals at home. There has been speculation that the US president wants to hold the summit before the US midterm elections in November.

There is still a chance, however, that Trump will disregard domestic politics and put off a summit unless there are significant concessions from North Korea -- something Trump could boast about to skeptics in Washington.  

“It’s still too early for Trump to advertise his achievements on North Korea,” said Shin of Asan Institute. “Trump has only two months to go before the midterm elections. It’s really a tight schedule to come up with a significant breakthrough.”

North Korea more serious than ever about giving up nukes, opening up economy: Moon

The primary goal of the second US-North Korea summit is to break the stalemate over denuclearization. The two sides have clashed over who should make the first move amid deep-rooted distrust caused by botched negotiations spanning decades.

The standoff has prompted Moon to play the role of mediator between Pyongyang and Washington. After holding his third summit with Kim last week, Moon traveled to the US to relay Kim’s message to Trump.

Apart with the meeting with Trump on Monday, Moon has spent most of his time in New York trying to overcome the pessimistic view in Washington that North Korea is not serious about completely abandoning its nuclear program.

“What could North Korea possibly gain from cheating (the US) and delaying the process?” Moon asked an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday. “If it were to happen, there would be strong retaliation from the US. How could North Korea deal with that?”

Moon also said while it was “natural” to be suspicious of North Korea’s true intentions, the situation is “completely different” this time largely due to its leader’s eagerness to transform the impoverished country into an economic powerhouse.

According to Moon, Kim Jong-un is considering joining the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions -- a signal that reflects the communist state’s willingness to open up and integrate into the global economy.

To facilitate the process, Moon said the US should reciprocate North Korea’s goodwill gestures toward denuclearization. Among the measures that the US can take are humanitarian aid, social exchanges and the political assurance of declaring an end to the Korean War, Moon added. 

“When we are talking about corresponding measures, it doesn’t necessary mean relaxing economic sanctions,” Moon said in an interview with Fox News, according to the Korean script released by presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

“First of all, we could think about declaring an end to the Korean War. Or we can think about providing humanitarian aid and exchanging art troupes. … If the US could take corresponding measures, then we will be able to expedite further denuclearization measures by North Korea.”

By Yeo Jun-suk(