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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean and U.S. Presidents will discuss North Korea and other pressing bilateral issues in Washington DC on April 11, the Blue House announced on Friday, in what will be the first meeting between the two leaders since the failed U.S.-DPRK summit last month.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to travel to the U.S. capital on April 10 and 11, Presidential Senior Secretary for Public Relations Yoon Do-han told a news briefing.
“Both leaders will have an in-depth discussion on how the two countries can coordinate to further strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance and establish a peace regime on the Korean peninsula through complete denuclearization,” Yoon said.
In a concurrent written statement, the White House confirmed that Moon and Trump planned to discuss the “latest developments regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well as bilateral matters.”
Second deputy chief of the presidential National Security Office (NSO) Kim Hyun-chong will visit the U.S. next week to discuss the agenda for the ROK-U.S. summit at the White House.
Next month’s meeting — the seventh between the two Presidents — will, notably, take place as the first session of North Korea’s 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) convenes in Pyongyang on April 11.
The two Presidents most recently met in Buenos Aires in November on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.
Following Trump’s surprise no-deal second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February, the two held talks over the phone.
That call saw Moon propose that he and Trump hold a face-to-face meeting “at an early date” to continue their “in-depth discussion,” the Blue House said at the time, adding that the U.S. President had accepted the suggestion.
It also saw Trump ask Moon to “actively play the role of mediator” between Washington and Pyongyang, and to hold a dialogue with the North Korean leader as soon as he could.
An official at the Blue House on Friday said that Trump had during that phone call asked Moon to help “lead North Korea to achieve an early harvest in negotiations for denuclearization.”
Trump, the presidential official said, had also asked Moon to discuss the nuclear issue with the North Korean leader.
“Therefore, both leaders are expected to discuss directing diplomacy with a top-down approach as a means to achieve complete denuclearization and establishing a peace regime on the Korea peninsula, as well as measures to fulfill [those goals],” the official said.
The summit comes as Seoul and Pyongyang appear to have reached an impasse in the aftermath of the second DPRK-U.S. summit, with one expert saying it provide an opportunity for South Korea to inject momentum into the diplomatic process.
“This will be the first real opportunity since the Hanoi summit for President Trump to hear from someone other than his key advisers,” Mintaro Oba, a former State Department East Asia desk officer, told NK News.
“Moon has a great chance here to shape the President’s thinking and get diplomacy back on track.”
Regarding inter-Korean relations, South Korea’s presidential official on Friday said the two Koreas are yet to resume “full-scale discussions.”
“Our understanding is that the North Korean side has been proceeding with self-evaluation in various aspects after the Hanoi summit, and it is expected to take several actions in the near future,” the official said.
From this perspective, they said, it is still too early to discuss holding another inter-Korean summit, while stressing that Seoul hopes a Kim-Moon meeting can be held soon.
North Korea is yet to respond to proposals from Seoul to hold inter-Korean military talks to implement the comprehensive military agreement signed in September.
The Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Friday confirmed that director-level meetings at the inter-Korean joint liaison office at Kaesong, too, had not been held for five weeks.
News of plans for a U.S.-ROK summit also comes as South Korea’s top diplomat travels to Washington DC this week.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha is set to meet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday afternoon in Washington.
The two sides are expected to “share assessments of the situation in the wake of the second U.S.-North Korea summit and discuss ways to move forward,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said this week in a written statement.
South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon is also set to participate in ministerial-level meetings during a trip to the U.S. between Thursday and Saturday, according to the MOFA.
Lee is set to meet his U.S. counterpart Stephen Biegun, who serves as Special Representative for North Korea, and other officials working on North Korean issues at the Trump administration.
Although Seoul has said it shares Washington’s view on the importance of a road-map to achieve the denuclearization of the peninsula, South Korean officials have also hinted at discrepancies between the two over the U.S.’s so-called “all-or-nothing” pitch to Pyongyang.
Speaking at a closed-door meeting with press on Friday, a Blue House official said the strategy did not take into account the fact that it would be “difficult to achieve complete denuclearization all at once.”
The Moon administration has instead stressed the importance of providing the North with incentives to denuclearization, describing it as “early harvest.”
Pyongyang and Washington can “build mutual trust through early harvest,” the presidential official previously said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House