A visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Seoul before the end of the year remains possible, South Korean President Moon Jae-in reiterated to press on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters while on an official state visit to New Zealand, the South Korean President stressed that a Seoul summit would serve to “accelerate the denuclearization in the Korean peninsula.”
“There is a possibility that Chairman Kim Jong Un’s Seoul visit may be made within the year,” Moon told a joint press conference with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Auckland, in comments carried by Yonhap News Agency.
“This will be the first time that a North Korean leader will visit South Korea so, although there is no time frame set for that, still that’s very meaningful,” he continued, adding that a Seoul summit would help improve relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
The leaders of the two Koreas in September agreed that to hold what would be their fourth summit in the South Korean capital “at an early date.”
Speaking at a news conference following that announcement, President Moon said Kim would fly to Seoul within the year, unless “special circumstances” arose.
Should the visit go ahead, it will be the first by a DPRK leader to the South since the end of the Korean War.
South Korea’s unification ministry on Saturday, too, reiterated its position that a Seoul summit would take place by the end of the year.
“We remain unchanged in our stance that [it] will be possible and necessary before the end of this year,” spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun told a regular press briefing.
Moon’s comments come as both South Korea and the U.S. top officials have in recent days sought to stress their commitment to dialogue and continued high-level dialogue with the DPRK.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said three sites were under consideration for a second U.S.-DPRK summit, and it would likely take place early next year.
“I think we’re going to do one fairly (soon) — into January, February, I think,” Trump told reporters onboard Air Force One on his way back from a G20 meeting in Argentina, adding that he might invite Kim to the U.S. “at some point.”
President Moon, too, speaking en route to New Zealand, told South Korean reporters on Monday that President Trump had asked him to convey a message to the DPRK leader.
“And the message was that President Trump has a very friendly view of Chairman Kim and that he likes him,” Moon said, relaying the contents of a conversation with Trump at the sidelines of the G20 summit on Friday.
“…and so he wishes Chairman Kim would implement the rest of their [denuclearization] agreement and that he would make what Chairman Kim wants come true.”
News on the summit timeline comes despite the cancellation last month of planned talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and DPRK counterpart Kim Yong Chol, as well as the retirement of CIA Korea Mission Center head Andrew Kim.
Much of the slowdown in DPRK-U.S. talks has been rooted in the issue of sequencing, with Pyongyang insisting that it requires reciprocal measures from Washington in return for what it claims are its substantial steps towards disarmament.
While the North has repeatedly stressed these reciprocal measures should involve relief from international sanctions, President Moon on Tuesday said he believed there were other ways for Washington to build trust.
“Corresponding measures may not only mean a reduction or removal of sanctions, but may be a delay or reduction of a South Korea-U.S. military exercise, humanitarian assistance or even non-political exchanges, such as sports and cultural exchanges,” he suggested.
Featured image: Pyeongyang Press Corps