About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean and U.S. Presidents in New York on Monday held an “in-depth discussion” on ways to ensure “substantive results” emerge from upcoming U.S.-North Korea working-level negotiations, a senior presidential official said.
In over an hour-long talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in at 1730 local time on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly, the two were reported to have discussed “ways to advance the peace process on the Korean peninsula.”
“The two leaders positively evaluated North Korea’s recent stated willingness to resume North Korea-U.S. working-level negotiations,” a senior South Korean presidential official who wished to remain anonymous told assembled media following the summit.
“Both agreed that the working-level negotiations should be held expeditiously, and therefore that substantive progress should be made,” the official added, saying the two had “particularly reaffirmed that the spirit of the Singapore Joint Statement remains valid.”
“[Both] had an in-depth discussion on ways to produce substantive results so that working-level negotiations can lead to the third North Korea-U.S. summit,” the presidential official said.
When asked if these plans included sanctions relief and an end-of-war declaration, the official said there was a “reference that sanctions should be maintained,” while stressing they could not share the details.
Despite this, the official declined to say whether two leaders discussed Trump’s proposed “new method” for talks with North Korea — alluded to by the President in comments last week and praised by new DPRK chief negotiator Kim Myong Gil on Friday.
“I cannot share any details on that question,” the South Korean official said. “But the two leaders exchanged views on concrete measures to make substantive progress when working-level negotiations resume between North Korea and the U.S.”
PROMISING A “BRIGHT FUTURE,” NO ARMED FORCE…
Trump and Moon, the official said, “reaffirmed their original commitment not to use armed force against North Korea and to provide it with a bright future when it achieves denuclearization.”
The official, however, explained that both Trump and Moon did not discuss “concrete” statements on providing security guarantees to the North Korean government — long a key demand of Pyongyang’s.
Monday’s summit, they continued, had confirmed the U.S. President’s “strong willingness to make substantive progress on the issue of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and peace settlement through negotiation based on the agreements made in Singapore.”
The two leaders also reportedly held an “in-depth discussion” on other mutual concerns, including ways to “achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean peninsula,” as well as to develop the alliance and broaden cooperation in the region.
With this week’s Moon-Trump meeting coming as the U.S. and North Korea are expected to resume working-level negotiations, South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha on Sunday suggested that ways to provide security guarantees to the North may be one of the major topics on the agenda.
Speaking at a news briefing, Kang said the U.S. and the South could work together to explore the “implications” of a future security guarantee — increasingly one of the North’s top demands.
The U.S., the South Korean foreign minister said, is open to discussing security guarantees and easing sanctions in these working-level talks.
BUT DEFENSE COST-SHARING, WEAPONS PURCHASE ISSUES LOOM
The South Korean presidential official on Monday also said the two leaders had also discussed the 11th Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on defense cost-sharing, on which negotiations will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in Seoul.
The two explained their basic stance on the defense burden-sharing negotiations, the official said, with President Moon emphasizing “equitable sharing at a reasonable level.”
The South Korean President also “provided a detailed explanation of how the government has contributed to the ROK-U.S. alliance and stable stationing of the U.S. Forces Korea, including steadily increasing the defense budget, increasingly purchasing U.S.-produced weapons, and a steady rise in defense cost-sharing.”
The two leaders also reportedly agreed to “further strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance by achieving mutually beneficial and satisfactory results” at the first round of talks on the 11th SMA.
The White House on Monday said the two Presidents had reaffirmed that their alliance “remains the linchpin and security of the Korean peninsula and in the region.”
Moon and Trump, the White House continued, also “discussed ways to further strengthen the alliance, including through the quick conclusion of a new military burden-sharing agreement before the end of 2019.”
Unlike Seoul, Washington did not make any mention of plans for working-level negotiations with Pyongyang in its readout issued following the summit.
It did, however, stress that the U.S. President is “confident” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will fulfill his commitments made at the first and second U.S.-DPRK summits.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House