Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump discuss North Korea summit prospects

Pyongyang may pull out of talks over air force drills

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, will meet  US president Donald Trump on Tuesday in Washington for a briefing ahead of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the US leader in Singapore on June 12th. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via Bloomberg

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, will meet US president Donald Trump on Tuesday in Washington for a briefing ahead of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the US leader in Singapore on June 12th. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via Bloomberg

 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in and US president Donald Trump have spoken by phone to make sure that the North Korea-US summit remains on track after North Korea threatened to pull out of the high-level talks.

Mr Moon and Mr Trump are set to meet on Tuesday in Washington for a briefing ahead of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the US leader in Singapore on June 12th.

“The two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea-US summit set on June 12th, including the upcoming South Korea-US summit,” Yoon Young-chan, press secretary to Mr Moon told reporters.

“The two leaders exchanged opinions on various actions taken by North Korea recently,” he said, cited by the Yonhap news agency. Sunday’s call was apparently the 15th telephone conversation between the two leaders.

Emotions had been running high after an historic inter-Korean summit in the truce village of Panmunjom on the southern side of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), the third time leaders of the two Koreas have met.

Further tensions

However, the North Koreans subsequently took issue over the US-South Korean air combat drills known as Max Thunder and North Korea’s chief negotiator Ri Son-gwon said on Thursday last week it would not hold talks with South Korea.

And there were further tensions on Sunday after North Korea’s Red Cross Society demanded Seoul should send a dozen North Korean female restaurant workers, who had defected but then apparently changed their minds, back home “without delay” to show the will to improve the inter-Korean ties, the North’s Korea Central News agency said.

The women came to the South in 2016 from China, and North Korea claimed they were abducted by the South, even though the South said the 12 workers decided to defect of their own free will.

Nuclear test site

The North Koreans are also unhappy that the US is trying to impose the Libyan model of denuclearisation and want reassurances that the plan does not entail regime change. The Libyans gave up their nuclear weapons in 2003 but eight years later its former leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power and killed by Nato-backed rebel forces in 2011.

Next week the North Koreans will dismantle the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and have called it a “significant measure”, despite reports the North has disregarded a request by the South to send journalists to cover the decommissioning.

Last week, the North said it would invite journalists from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and the South to cover the event.

There have been questions from Seoul about whether the dismantling will take place, but the North Korean propaganda website, Uriminzokkiri, ran a commentary saying it does not give the slightest consideration to “a mental patient’s grumble” in the South.