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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday “clarified his will” to resolve the North Korean issue through dialogue, in a phone call with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in held just hours after a second DPRK-U.S. summit ended in no deal being reached.
In 25-minute bilateral talks held following President Trump’s departure from Vietnam on Air Force One at around 1750 local time, Seoul’s Presidential office said the two leaders had discussed the outcomes of that summit.
They also held an “in-depth exchange” on how the two countries could work together on relevant “follow-up measures.”
Trump expressed regret that Pyongyang and Washington had failed to reach a deal, the Blue House said, reaffirming his willingness to continue dialogue with North Korea.
“He clarified his will to settle [the issue] through dialogue,” the U.S. President was quoted as saying by the Blue House.
Trump also reportedly asked Moon to serve as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang, and to subsequently share the outcome of talks with the DPRK leader.
The U.S. President also said Moon was the first leader he wanted to discuss summit outcomes with, the Blue House reported.
During Thursday’s talks, the South Korean President proposed that he and Trump hold a face-to-face meeting “at an early date” to continue their “in-depth discussion.”
Trump, in turn, accepted Moon’s suggestion.
The U.S. President also stressed the need for close cooperation between Seoul and Washington to encourage North Korea to take steps towards denuclearization.
The talks come nine days since the two leaders discussed plans to cooperate in ensuring the success of the second DPRK-U.S. summit.
Ahead of the meeting in Hanoi, Moon in February stressed that inter-Korean economic cooperation could be used as part of “corresponding measures aimed at encouraging North Korea to take denuclearization steps,” in his conversation with the U.S. President.
Seoul is “determined to take on any role, should President Trump make the request,” Moon also said, emphasizing that it would be a “way to lessen burdens” on Washington.
Speaking at a nearly hour-long news conference following his summit on Thursday, Trump said that the talks had failed to produce an agreement because of Pyongyang’s demands for full sanctions relief.
As the U.S. President left Hanoi, South Korean presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-keum on Thursday said Trump had hoped to “reach a big deal through the meeting.”
“My understanding is that the two leaders were not be able to reach a final agreement… as both failed to meet this expectation,” Kim told a press briefing.
In a separate statement, the Blue House also expressed “regret” that the second DPRK-U.S. summit had concluded without a deal.
“However, it seems clear that they have made more meaningful progress than at any time prior,” the ROK presidential office said in a statement issued under spokesperson Kim’s name.
Seoul also sought to project a positive spin on the summit’s outcomes, saying that the U.S. and North Korean leaders had “expanded the scope and depth of their understanding of each other’s positions through in-depth and long discussions.”
“In particular, President Trump’s expressed commitment to continuing talks and optimistic views brighten the prospects for another summit,” Kim said.
“The fact that President Trump unveiled his intentions to lift or alleviate the sanctions on North Korea in accordance with its denuclearization measures shows that the discussions between North Korea and the United States have been raised to a new level.”
One expert shared Seoul’s optimism, arguing that “as long as both Kim and Trump maintain political will to continue talks, we can expect there to be progress in the future.”
“Both leaders want to maintain their relationship and want to strike a deal at some point down the road,” David Kim, an analyst with the Stimson Center and a former U.S. diplomat, told NK News.
“The President just made clear though that this will take time and that he looks forward to meeting again with Chairman Kim,” he added.
“The U.S. walked away because we didn’t have a deal, and no deal is better than a bad deal… these talks will take a long time and will far outlive this presidency.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: White House