South Korea relieved about Trump-Kim summit revival efforts

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 26, 2018

"It could even be the 12th", he added.

But the White House has since been favourably impressed by the response from Pyongyang.

Defense Secretary James Mattis also sounded an optimistic note, telling reporters at the Pentagon there is "possibly some good news" about the summit, saying that "if our diplomats can pull it off" it may be back on. "We're going to see what happens".

Other South Koreans say it's not their optimism that's misplaced, but their trust in Trump.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said he spoke with Mr. Trump on Thursday, and the president feels as if North Korea was trying to manipulate him. Both moves were crucial confidence-building measures in advance of the scheduled summit in Singapore in June.

Rekindling hopes as quickly as he had doused them, Trump said it was even possible the meeting could take place on the originally planned June 12 date. Regardless of the motivation, Kim's statement was the latest whiplash development in efforts to diplomatically address what might be the world's most unsafe standoff.

Earlier on Friday, Trump welcomed the statement as "warm and productive". The stakes are thus very high indeed.

While China may have been wary of the pace of diplomatic activity between the two Koreas and Washington in recent weeks, it certainly does not want a return to the tension of the pre-Olympics period when the Trump administration was threatening military strikes on its doorstep, and China had little choice but to play a supporting role in the USA pressure campaign.

Trump, in return, reminded North Korea that US nuclear capabilities are "so massive and powerful" in his letter to Kim. The Singapore summit would have been the culmination of this outreach.

Earlier comments by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, seen as a driving force behind the summit and just returned to Seoul from a meeting with Trump in Washington, suggested that the South, a top U.S. ally and host to 28,500 United States troops, was blindsided by Trump's statement.

In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had urged Trump at a White House meeting on Tuesday not to let a rare opportunity slip away, said on Thursday he was "perplexed" by the cancellation.

Trump's back-and-forth over his summit plans with Kim has exposed the fragility of Seoul as an intermediary.

The summit would be an unprecedented meeting between a sitting USA president and a North Korean leader, which Washington hopes will result in full denuclearization of the reclusive state.

North Korea had threatened to pull out of the unprecedented summit after USA officials advocated a so-called Libya model approach, which involved that African country's total nuclear dismantlement before any concessions were granted.

A planned trip by United States officials to survey summit sites, which the White House formally announced on Wednesday, was not canceled, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr Trump said he had been "very much looking forward" to meeting Mr Kim. "We are continuing to watch developments carefully".

If Pyongyang refuses to offer even the faintest idea of how it will eliminate its nuclear weapons, and it looks like Kim is just playing for time, Trump needs to decline his invitation.

Choe Son-hui had said the suggestions from US Vice-President Mike Pence that North Korea "may end like Libya" was "stupid".

"You will not pass this class if you don't show some improvement very soon", he wrote.

South Korean President Moon visited U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month. "But there's a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down".

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