Moon seeks to break nuclear deadlock at Pyongyang summit

Moon said that he's pushing for "irrevocable progress" on efforts to rid North Korea of its nukes by the end of this year as he prepares for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP/Hwang Gwang-mo/Yonhap)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Moon seeks to break nuclear deadlock at Pyongyang summit

  • The visit comes after the North put on its “Mass Games” propaganda display for the first time in five years
  • Moon was instrumental in brokering the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore in June

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in travels to Pyongyang this week for his third summit with Kim Jong Un, looking to break the deadlock in nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States.
Moon — whose own parents fled the North during the Korean War — flies north on Tuesday for a three-day trip, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and mentor Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.
No details of the program have been announced, but Pyongyang is likely to pull out all the stops to create a good impression, with tens of thousands of people lining the streets to welcome him.
The visit comes after the North put on its “Mass Games” propaganda display for the first time in five years.
The new show featured imagery of Kim and Moon at their first summit in April in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula — prompting the unusual sight of tens of thousands of North Koreans in the May Day Stadium applauding pictures of Seoul’s leader.
One diplomatic source predicted the visit would see “Kim and Moon together receiving the same sort of applause.”
But while the Panmunjom summit was high on headline-grabbing symbolism, with Moon stepping briefly into the North and the two sharing an extended one-to-one woodland chat, pressure is mounting for substantive progress.
Moon was instrumental in brokering the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore in June, when Kim backed denuclearization of the “Korean peninsula.”
But no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have sparred since over what that means and how it will be achieved.
At the same time the US and South have sometimes moved at radically different speeds in their approach to the North.
Moon will try again to “play the role of facilitator or mediator,” said his special adviser on foreign affairs Moon Chung-in.
“He believes that improved inter-Korean relations have some role in facilitating US-DPRK talks as well as solving the North Korean nuclear problem,” he told reporters, using the North’s official acronym.
Last month, Trump abruptly canceled a planned visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, after the North condemned “gangster-like” demands for what it called its unilateral disarmament.
Washington has been adamant that the North carry out a “final, fully verified denuclearization” first, while Pyongyang is demanding a formal declaration from the US that the Korean War is over.
But Kim has since sent Trump a letter seeking a second summit and held a military parade for his country’s 70th birthday without showing off any intercontinental ballistic missiles, prompting warm tweets from the US president.
North Korea will want to exploit Trump’s eagerness to declare progress before the US midterm elections in November to secure concessions, said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, and will view “every meeting as a viable political opportunity” toward that goal.
But whether Pyongyang is willing to offer something concrete in return has yet to be seen.
Moon may try to convince the North Korean leader to verbally commit to providing a list of the country’s existing nuclear program, said Shin Beom-cheol, another analyst at the Asan Institute.
“It won’t be South Korea that inspects and verifies so if we can get something out of Kim Jong Un’s mouth, that will be significant,” Shin said, adding the next step could be a summit between Kim and Trump sometime in October.
Despite the deadlock in denuclearization talks, since the Panmunjom summit the two Koreas have sought to pursue joint projects in multiple fields.
But North Korea is under several different sets of sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs, hampering efforts to revive cross-border economic schemes.
The dovish South Korean president has invited the heads of the country’s largest conglomerates — including Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motors — to accompany him to Pyongyang.
“He is sending a message to the North to speedily complete denuclearization, conclude talks with the US so that South Korea can begin full-fledged economic cooperation,” said analyst Go.
And special adviser Moon Chung-in added that the South Korean president could look to convince Kim to come up with a “somewhat radical and bold initiative,” such as dismantling some nuclear bombs, and press the US for reciprocal measures.
“And the United States should be willing to come up with major economic easing of economic sanctions,” he said.


Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

Updated 51 min 27 sec ago
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Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

  • Chinese president said the problems between US and China won’t benefit either sides
  • US and China raised tariffs on some of each other’s goods and companies

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Japan next week, raising hopes for a truce in the bruising trade war between the world’s top two economies.
The two leaders spoke on the phone on Tuesday, weeks after negotiations broke down when Trump accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments, hiked tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and then blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
The US president took a conciliatory approach this time.
“Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting,” he said ahead of the June 28-29 summit.
Xi noted that bilateral relations had encountered difficulties that were “not in the interest of either side” but he warned that dialogue must be conducted on “an equal footing.”
“China and the US will both gain by cooperating and lose by fighting,” Xi told Trump, according to state media.
Global shares were buoyed by the announcement, with Wall Street rallying on Tuesday and Asian stock markets surging on Wednesday.
The White House readout of the call said the leaders “discussed the importance of leveling the playing field for US farmers, workers, and businesses through a fair and reciprocal economic relationship.”
“I think we have a chance. China wants a deal. They don’t like the tariffs,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I have a very good relationship with president Xi. We’ll see what happens.”
The White House repeated that the focus of the talks will be to address “structural barriers to trade with China and achieving meaningful reforms that are enforceable and verifiable.”
The United States and China seemed close to an agreement when talks collapsed last month.
Beijing retaliated to Trump’s tariffs and moves against Huawei by increasing custom taxes on $60 billion in US goods, creating its own list of “unreliable” companies and individuals and threatening to ban exports of rare earths to the United States.
Xi told Trump that the two countries must “accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns” and that “China hopes the US side can treat Chinese firms in a fair manner,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Trump had requested the call between the two leaders, according to Xinhua.
A week before the G20, Xi will visit North Korea on Thursday and Friday, his first trip there as president.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally, and analysts say Xi could use any leverage Beijing may have in the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang as a “bargaining chip” in his talks with Trump.
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that there are “no guarantees” of any resolution in Osaka, Japan.
“Our position continues to be (that) we want structural changes,” Kudlow told reporters.
“They’ll have a good conversation. The fact that they’re meeting is a good thing.”
In an editorial, the state-run China Daily said Communist Party decision-makers, like White House counter-parts, “want to evade a full-blown trade war.”
“Since neither side appears ready to really slam the door shut on further negotiations, they should refrain from escalating tensions, and engage each other in a more constructive manner,” the daily said.
Global markets are concerned about Trump’s threat to impose more steep tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, which could hurt the already slowing Chinese economy and spread the gloom worldwide.
Trump last week threatened to “immediately” jack up tariffs should Xi fail to show up at the meeting. The United States already has 25 percent duties on more than $250 billion of imports from China.