On Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un held a surprise meeting. The gathering was in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was canceling the planned summit between himself and Kim.
Trump has not yet indicated whether or not he will reconsider meeting with the North Korean leader, but the meeting between Seoul and Pyongyang shows that there is still a chance that the summit could take place.
Trump Cancels U.S./North Korea Summit
Recently, President Trump announced that he would not be meeting with Kim Jong Un on June 12th as originally planned. He also sent a letter to the North Korean dictator explaining the reasons for the cancellation. “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote.
The president’s statement was a reference to scathing public comments in the North Korean state media lashing out against members of the Trump administration. The North Korean leader slammed National Security Advisor John Bolton for suggesting that the United States was pursuing a “Libyan-style” denuclearization process. He also expressed consternation over military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. and ceased direct communication with the United States.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Trump administration came when a North Korean Foreign Ministry official called Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy.” The official also implied that Pyongyang was prepared for a “nuclear showdown” if negotiations collapsed. After Trump canceled the meeting, the leaders of North and South Korea called an emergency meeting.
South and North Korea Reaffirm Commitment
On Sunday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated that Kim was still committed to a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Moon gave a possible explanation for Kim’s recent behavior, saying:
“What Kim is unclear about is that he has concerns about whether his country can surely trust the United States over its promise to end hostile relations (with North Korea) and provide a security guarantee if they do denuclearization.”
Moon’s statement is consistent with what many have surmised about the North Korean dictator. It is apparent that he wishes to avoid the same fate as Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was deposed by the Obama administration even after complying with an agreement to end the country’s nuclear program.
Nevertheless, Moon has apparently reassured Kim about Washington’s intentions. He used the inter-Korea meeting to tell Kim that Trump has a “firm resolve” to bring about peaceful relations with Pyongyang. It appears that reassurance went both ways, as Moon also told reporters North Korea is still committed to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Will Trump Meet With Kim?
Recently, President Trump stated that he might still be willing to meet with Kim. He said that talks over the summit were “going along very well.” He also posted a tweet stating that things are heading in a good direction when it comes to meeting with the North Korean leader. He wrote:
“We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date.”
North Korea has already announced that they are still willing to meet with the president “at any time.” Trump has yet to give a definitive statement regarding the summit, but the actions of Kim and Moon demonstrate a level of urgency on the part of both nations when it comes to ending hostilities. Moon’s statements are clearly designed to convince Trump to reconsider the meeting.
Before canceling the summit, Trump repeatedly indicated that denuclearization was the only acceptable outcome when it comes to meeting with Kim. Many have opined that Trump’s cancellation was intended to send a message to Pyongyang: you need this meeting more than we do. Kim’s conciliatory tone after Trump’s announcement indicates that the tactic worked. Perhaps the president’s tougher approach to North Korea will bring about the result for which many are hoping: ending the North Korean nuclear threat.
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