North and South Korean leaders embrace at surprise summit

Hugh Fox
May 26, 2018

He did not confirm how the secret meeting was arranged or which side asked for it.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that "the diplomats are still at work on the summit" but declined to say whether he thought the event would take place on June 12.

South Korea's Moon has pushed diplomacy as he desperately sought to calm spiralling tensions on the Korean Peninsula and an escalating war of words between Kim and Trump a year ago sparked by Pyongyang's detonation of its largest nuclear bomb to date and a series of intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The previous summit was held at the southern side of the border.

North Korea had sharply criticised suggestions by Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, and Vice President Mike Pence that it could share the fate of Libya if it did not swiftly surrender its nuclear arsenal. Another photo showed Moon shaking hands with Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong.

A White House official quoted by Reuters news agency described the comments about Mr Pence as the "last straw".

And as of Friday morning, an advance team of about 30 White House staffers and State Department officials was still planning to leave for a logistics meeting Southeast Asia on Sunday, according to two people familiar with the planning.

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Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations at the White House, was scheduled to travel to Singapore this weekend to make preparations.

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Mr Trump's decision "unexpected" and "very regrettable", and said the cancellation of the talks showed "how grave the status of historically deep-rooted hostile North Korea-US relations is and how urgently a summit should be realized to improve ties".

"If it does happen ... the North Koreans are going to come back with a tougher negotiating position because the USA credibility has really been damaged by this letter and by the method in which the meeting was canceled to begin with", Jenny Town, managing editor of the North Korea-watching 38 North website, said in a telephonic press briefing.

"We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it, we'd like to do it", he told reporters.

"We weren't getting the right signals previously, so hopefully we will in the future", Nauert said. He also suggested it was possible Pyongyang realized it overstepped in its rhetoric when Trump canceled.

"President Moon Jae-in held a second summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission at Tongilgak in the north of Panmunjom from 3 pm to 5 pm on May 26", the statement, issued by Presidential Senior Secretary for Public Relations Yoon Young-chan, reads.

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Early this month, North Korea cancelled a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea's participation in regular military exercises with the United States and insisted that it will not return to talks unless its grievances are resolved.

USA defense and intelligence officials have repeatedly assessed the North to be on the threshold of having the capability to strike anywhere in the continental US with a nuclear-tipped missile - a capacity that Trump and other USA officials have said they would not tolerate.

President Donald Trump and his aides are hinting that his historic sit-down with Kim Jong Un may still happen, just one day after Trump sent a blunt letter to the North Korean leader calling it off.

"We reiterate to the United States that there is a willingness to sit down at any time, in any way, to solve the problem", said a top official at the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

But later that evening, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a statement saying that he would still be open to meeting with Trump and American officials. "We will see what happens", said the US President. The plan followed months of war threats and insults from both leaders. He's made a decision to end the North Korean nuclear program. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid overshadowing Trump's comments Thursday.

Incoming U.S. presidents enjoy a good deal of discretion, but they have no choice when it comes to the problems they inherit. "If North Korea is serious, then we look forward to hearing from them at the highest levels". "We will see what happens", Trump told reporters in response to another question.

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"They know that if they start resuming testing all of that goodwill, all of that change in Kim's reputation, all of that will go out the window very quickly", she said.

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