Trump and Kim raise summit hopes after days of brinkmanship

Plans for a landmark summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are moving “very nicely”, US President Donald Trump said Sunday, as the South’s leader said Kim told him the talks would be a historic opportunity to end decades of confrontation.

The latest conciliatory declarations capped a turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship on the Korean Peninsula that had sent tensions soaring.

Trump rattled the region on Thursday by cancelling a planned June 12 meeting with Kim in Singapore, citing “open hostility” from Pyongyang.

But within 24 hours he reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.

“It’s moving along very nicely,” Trump told reporters late Saturday when asked for an update. “We’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed.”

Trump’s unpredictability sparked a sudden and surprise meeting on Saturday between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in — only the fourth time leaders from the two countries have ever met — as they scrambled to get the talks back on track.

Pictures showed them shaking hands and embracing on the North Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone separating the two nations.

Moon said Kim reached out to him to arrange the hasty meeting “without any formality”. There the North Korean leader described the Singapore summit as a landmark opportunity to end decades of confrontation.

“He… expressed his intention to put an end to the history of war and confrontation through the success of the North-US summit and to cooperate for peace and prosperity,” Moon told reporters in Seoul on Sunday.

Pyongyang’s state-run KCNA news agency said Kim “expressed his fixed will on the historic DPRK-US summit talks”, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.

Kim said the two Koreas should “positively cooperate with each other as ever to improve the DPRK-U.S. relations and establish mechanism for permanent and durable peace,” KCNA added, saying South and North Korea would hold another round of “high-level” talks on June 1.

Shaky detente

Trump’s original decision to abandon the historic summit initially blindsided South Korea, which had been brokering a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang and is desperate to avoid conflict breaking out.

However, there was a further signal of progress Saturday as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed a team of US officials was leaving for Singapore “in order to prepare should the summit take place”.

Last year, Trump and Kim were trading war threats and insults after Pyongyang tested its most powerful nuclear weapon to date and missiles it said were capable of reaching the US mainland.

Tensions were calmed after Kim extended an olive branch by offering to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, sparking a rapid detente that led to Trump agreeing to hold direct talks with Pyongyang.

Moon won the election last year partly by vowing to be open to dialogue with the North and finding a solution to a Cold War-era sore that continues to blight the region.

The flurry of diplomatic backslapping and bonhomie disappeared in recent weeks as the summit was thrown into doubt by increasingly bellicose rhetoric from both top US administration officials and Pyongyang.

There are still stark differences between what the two sides hope to achieve.

Washington wants North Korea to give up all its nukes in a verifiable way as quickly as possible in return for sanctions and economic relief.

Pyongyang has a different view of what denuclearisation might look like and remains deeply worried that abandoning that deterrent would leave the country vulnerable to regime change.

“Kim stressed again that he had a firm determination towards complete denuclearisation,” Moon told reporters Sunday.

“The thing he was uncertain about was not denuclearisation but concerns on whether he could trust that the US would end its hostile policy and guarantee the security of his regime when the North denuclearises itself.”

‘Back on track’

Saturday’s meeting between Moon and Kim took place on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, a heavily fortified village that lies between the two countries where the 1953 armistice was signed.

Only last month, the two leaders met in the same village, with Kim famously inviting Moon to step briefly into the North before they both held talks in a building on the South’s side.

Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korea studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said Moon and Kim moved quickly to defuse the crisis after Trump’s shock cancellation.

“Moon essentially helped relay messages from Trump to Kim and vice versa, to further smooth the process and to resume negotiations,” he told AFP, saying the Singapore meeting was “clearly back on track”.

Unlike last month’s summit, which was held in front of live TV cameras, Saturday’s meeting took place in utmost secrecy, with reporters only told later that the face-to-face had taken place.

Footage released by the Blue House on Twitter, accompanied by a dramatic orchestral score, showed Moon arriving in a convoy of cars and first shaking hands with Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, who has played a major public role in recent talks with the South.

Advertisting

Workers’ R60m ‘lost’ in banks scam

An asset manager, VBS Mutual Bank and a Namibian bank have put the retirement funds of 26 000 municipal workers in South Africa at risk

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Lekwa municipality won’t answer questions about why children died in...

Three children are dead. More than a dozen homes have been gutted by fires in the past six months. And, as...
Advertising

Press Releases

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.