Hopes of an historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have been revived, after the US president said meetings on the subject were “moving along very nicely.”
Days after he called off next month’s summit in Singapore with Kim, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” Trump told reporters in Washington late Saturday, “We’re still looking at June 12 in Singapore, that hasn’t changed.”
There was “a lot of good will” regarding the summit, the president said, adding that if the Korean Peninsula could be denuclearized “it would be great for the world.”
His comments came as South Korean President Moon Jae In said it was his understanding that “practical talks” would soon be held between the two sides.
The outcome of those talks would decide whether or not the US-North Korea summit would be successful, Moon told reporters in Seoul on Sunday, a day after he held a surprise meeting with Kim at the border between the two countries.
Earlier Sunday, North Korean state-run news agency KCNA reported that Kim had told Moon it was his “fixed will” to hold the summit with Trump.
Moon said Kim had once again expressed a willingness to meet Trump and that he had reiterated a pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula made when the two leaders first met in April.
The South Korean leader said Saturday’s meeting had taken place at Kim’s request and that the two had agreed that the North Korea-US summit was “something on which we cannot fail.”
“But I believe the practical meetings and the summit on June 12 will go very smoothly,” said Moon, who met Trump in Washington earlier this week.
He also said that Kim was “uncertain” as to “whether he can trust the US promise to end their hostile relationship and guarantee North Korea’s security once the North denuclearizes.”
The two neighbours agreed to hold high-level talks on June 1, which had previously been cancelled by Pyongyang in protest at joint military drills by the US and South Korea this month.
Moon also confirmed KCNA’s report that the two leaders had agreed to meet frequently, saying Saturday’s summit was “held like a routine meeting between friends” which “I believe… must be the way the South and the North meet.”
On Saturday the White House confirmed that Washington was still sending an advance team to Singapore to prepare in case the Trump-Kim summit took place after all.
The weekend’s statements come after days of confusion over the summit, which Trump cancelled in a letter to Kim on Thursday, only to later say Washington was still talking to Pyongyang about it.
Trump’s cancellation came after Pyongyang called US Vice President Mike Pence “stupid” and threatened a nuclear showdown for saying North Korea could “end like the Libya model ended” if it backed out of the summit.
Pyongyang then said it was still open to talks which it said were urgently needed to resolve “grave hostile relations.”
Saturday’s meeting between Kim and Moon at the “truce village” of Panmunjom, which lies in the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between the two countries, was only the fourth of its kind.
Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, held meetings with his South Korean counterparts in 2000 and 2007.
At Kim and Moon’s April 27 summit they agreed to pursue a set of goals, including a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and an official end to the Korean War, which has technically been ongoing despite a 1953 armistice.