Optimism returns about likelihood of Trump-Kim meeting
‘This is not diplomacy, it’s political theatre,’ says monitor after Koreas’ latest talks
South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in signs a guestbook as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un looks on during their second summit at the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Photograph: KCNA via KNS/AFP/Getty
Amid hugs and smiles, Moon met Kim on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, the “truce village” on the border, which was the site of their first meeting just a month earlier. The atmosphere was “just like an ordinary meeting between friends” and the two held “candid talks”, Moon said. A video released by the South Korean presidential office had the audio replaced with dramatic music, showing the two men embracing, both with wide smiles . The spontaneous offer by Kim to meet, and Moon’s quick acceptance, shows how close the two leaders have become in a short period of time.
It capped a whirlwind 24 hours of diplomacy as Moon scrambled to salvage a June 12th summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore after Trump abruptly cancelled the meeting on Thursday. But on Saturday evening in the US as Moon was briefing reporters on his meeting with Kim, Trump suggested the US-North Korea summit could go ahead as originally planned. “We’re doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea,” Trump said at the White House. “It’s moving along very nicely. So we’re looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn’t changed. So, we’ll see what happens.” Kim “once again committed to complete denuclearisation”, Moon said.
But he repeatedly refused to answer questions on the specifics of how North Korea would relinquish its nuclear weapons or if they would allow international experts to inspect nuclear facilities. The thorny issue of how exactly the North would give up its nuclear weapons has consistently hung over discussions between Washington and Pyongyang.
US officials have demanded North Korea unilaterally disarm before concessions are granted on economic sanctions or a pledge of non-aggression, while Pyongyang prefers phased negotiations and concessions from the US. Kim expressed “his fixed will on the historic” meeting with Trump, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Photos of the Moon-Kim meeting were printed on the front page of the Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper.
“It’s strategically smart for Kim to invite Moon for a face-to-face meeting, it helps portray him in the public eye as a very friendly, diplomacy-oriented statesman,” said Jenny Town, managing editor of monitoring group 38 North. “It really offsets the tone Kim’s regime has put forward with statements threatening nuclear war.” But she warned there was still a chasm between Washington and Pyongyang on core issues, saying there was little point in holding a US-North Korea summit that lacked substance. “This is not diplomacy, it’s political theatre,” Town said. “There is no trust between the two right now, so why would Kim trust any US security guarantee on paper? Trust on both sides needs to be built over time and no one should expect Trump to fly to Singapore and leave with all of North Korea’s nukes.”
“The path to complete denuclearisation and full peace was never going to be an easy one,” Moon said. But he added, “I’m sure we will succeed”. Moon also said he hoped there could be a meeting between North Korea, South Korea and the US to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a full peace treaty. He praised Kim for announcing a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, as well as the closing of the country’s nuclear test site this week. The two sides would hold “high-level talks” on June 1st as well as military discussions to reduce tensions and efforts to set up reunions between divided families. – Guardian service