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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un remains unsure whether he can trust potential future guarantees of regime security from the United States, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday.
Speaking at a news conference a day after a surprise meeting with the DPRK leader, the South Korean President said Kim had at their summit “clearly expressed his firm determination for the complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula once again.”
“What is unclear for chairman Kim Jong Un is not his willingness to denuclearize,” Moon told assembled media. “But I believe he has concerns on if he can trust U.S. suggestions of terminating hostile relations and guaranteeing regime security.”
Sunday saw Moon also say that he had conveyed U.S. President Donald Trump’s hopes to improve DPRK-U.S. relations and promote economic cooperation should the North achieve full denuclearization.
“But President Trump clearly expressed his intention to definitely terminate the hostile relations and help the country achieve economic prosperity at the ROK-U.S. summit if the North fulfills denuclearization,” the South Korean President told media.
“I am urging both countries to share such agendas to each other and confirm the will of the other side through direct communication,” he continued, adding he had also shared the results of the fourth inter-Korean summit with the Trump administration.
U.S. officials over the past weeks have suggested that Washington could assist the North economically should the country give up its nuclear arsenal.
The North and South Korean leaders also on Saturday agreed to meet and communicate “at any time” if necessary.
Saturday saw Kim and Moon hold an unexpected two-hour meeting at Tongilgak on the northern side of the truce village at Panmunjom.
Moon today said the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had on Friday proposed that the two meet the following afternoon, and that he had accepted the suggestion.
“We gave a high evaluation to the fact that the summit yesterday was arranged in a speedy manner without sticking to formalities as the occasion demanded and agreed to communicate or sit together to have candid discussions whenever necessary,” the ROK President said on Sunday.
Speaking at the news conference, Moon reiterated he and Kim promised to discuss pending issues “at any time and without formality if necessary” at the third inter-Korean summit on April 27.
The two Koreas yesterday also reportedly agreed to hold the inter-Korean high-level talks on June 1, previously unilaterally canceled by Pyongyang earlier in the month.
Following comments in which the North denounced the then-ongoing joint ROK-U.S. annual air combat drill Max Thunder, a DPRK official later said that inter-Korean meetings would not go ahead until the issues were resolved.
Moon and Kim on Saturday, however, agreed to press ahead with talks in various fields, including military and humanitarian.
“We also reconfirmed the need to accelerate the implementation of the Panmunjeom Declaration,” the President said.
“To this end, we agreed to convene inter-Korean high-level talks on June 1 to be followed by the talks between military authorities to ease military tensions and the Red Cross talks for the reunion of separated families.”
Sunday’s surprise meeting between Moon and Kim came two days after President Trump called off a planned summit with the DPRK leader in Singapore set to take place on June 12.
In a letter addressed to Kim just hours after the DPRK claimed to have destroyed its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri, President Trump said due to the “tremendous anger and open hostility” expressed in a recent statement, he believed it would be “inappropriate” to hold the meeting.
But the President the following day appeared to suggest the summit might still go ahead, telling press that “we’d like to do it… we’re going to see what happens.”
“We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th, and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date,” the President later added on Twitter.
Following the surprise inter-Korean summit, too, Washington suggested that the meeting could still place.
In comments to press, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the White House would send a planning team to Singapore to prepare for a possible summit.
Working-level talks on the DPRK-U.S. summit will begin “soon,” President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday, adding that the success of those talks will decide if the Kim-Trump meeting takes place.
Moon said he expected working-level talks and the summit between Pyongyang and Washington to go ahead if the two countries were “clearly aware” of the other’s position.
The South Korean President also told press he supported the setting up of a “hotline between the North and the U.S.” when asked about the possibility of dialogue between the leaders of the two Koreas and the U.S. over the phone.
He also suggested that a trilateral summit could take place ahead of a planned signing of an agreement formally ending the Korean War, previously agreed by the two Koreas in April.
“I also have expectations that a declaring an end to the war will be preceded by a trilateral summit between the South, the North, and the U.S. if the North-U.S. summit is successfully held.”
Moon made no mention, however, of potential Chinese participation in peace treaty talks – a clause agreed to in the Panmunjom declaration.
The ROK President also declined to provide a direct answer on whether the DPRK leader had accepted the idea of Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear arsenal, which has been rejected by Pyongyang but remains a key U.S. demand.
“In order to hold dialogue between the North and the U.S., my understanding is that it will be possible after both have confirmed the will of the counterpart,” Moon said.
Moon said that it would be “inappropriate” to share his thoughts on any roadmap to denuclearization, describing it as an issue to be discussed between the North and the U.S.
“It is necessary that both discuss the roadmap on how to realize [denuclearization],” he said. “And that process may be demanding.”
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also on Sunday reported that Moon and Kim had “reached a satisfactory consensus in the matters discussed at the talks.”
KCNA said there been an “in-depth exchanges of opinions” on means to move forward with measures agreed to in April’s Panmunjom Declaration and “to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and achieve regional peace, stability and prosperity.”
North Korean state media also reported the two discussed “successfully holding the DPRK-U.S. summit.”
Featured image: Blue House