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

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 says he’ll leave if Electoral College seats Biden

Updated 11 min ago

Trump says he’ll leave if Electoral College seats Biden

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will leave the White House if the Electoral College formalizes President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory — even as he insisted such a decision would be a “mistake” — as he spent his Thanksgiving renewing baseless claims that “massive fraud” and crooked officials in battleground states caused his election defeat.
“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said Thursday when asked whether he would vacate the building, allowing a peaceful transition of power in January. But Trump — taking questions for the first time since Election Day — insisted that “a lot of things” would happen between now and then that might alter the results.
“This has a long way to go,” Trump said, even though he lost.
The fact that a sitting American president even had to address whether or not he would leave office after losing reelection underscores the extent to which Trump has smashed one convention after another over the last three weeks. While there is no evidence of the kind of widespread fraud Trump has been alleging, he and his legal team have nonetheless been working to cast doubt on the integrity of the election and trying to overturn voters’ will in an unprecedented breach of Democratic norms.

US President Donald Trump gestures as he participates in a Thanksgiving video teleconference with members of the military forces at the White House in Washington on Nov. 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

Trump spoke to reporters in the White House’s ornate Diplomatic Reception Room after holding a teleconference with US military leaders stationed across the globe. He thanked them for their service and jokingly warned them not to eat too much turkey, then turned to the election after ending the call. He repeated grievances and angrily denounced officials in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two key swing states that helped give Biden the win.
Trump claimed, despite the results, that this may not be his last Thanksgiving at the White House. And he insisted there had been “massive fraud,” even though state officials and international observers have said no evidence of that exists and Trump’s campaign has repeatedly failed in court.
Trump’s administration has already given the green light for a formal transition to get underway. But Trump took issue with Biden moving forward.
“I think it’s not right that he’s trying to pick a Cabinet,” Trump said, even though officials from both teams are already working together to get Biden’s team up to speed.
And as he refused to concede, Trump announced that he will be traveling to Georgia to rally supporters ahead of two Senate runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate. Trump said the rally for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler would likely be held Saturday. The White House later clarified he had meant Dec. 5.

US President Donald Trump gestures as he participates in a Thanksgiving video teleconference with members of the military forces at the White House in Washington on Nov. 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

One of the reasons Republicans have stood by Trump and his baseless claims of fraud has been to keep his loyal base energized ahead of those runoffs on Jan. 5. But Trump, in his remarks, openly questioned whether that election would be fair in a move that could dampen Republican turnout.
“I think you’re dealing with a very fraudulent system. I’m very worried about that,” he said. “People are very disappointed that we were robbed.”
As for the Electoral College, Trump made clear that he will likely never formally concede, even if he said he would leave the White House.
“It’s gonna be a very hard thing to concede. Because we know there was massive fraud,” he said, noting that, “time isn’t on our side.”
“If they do,” vote against him, Trump added, “they’ve made a mistake.”
Asked whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration, Trump said he knew the answer but didn’t want to share it yet.
But there were some signs that Trump was coming to terms with his loss.

US President Donald Trump gestures as he participates in a Thanksgiving video teleconference with members of the military forces at the White House in Washington on Nov. 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

At one point he urged reporters not to allow Biden the credit for pending coronavirus vaccines. “Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before,” he said.
As for whether or not he plans to formally declare his candidacy to run again in 2024 — as he has discussed with aides— Trump he didn’t “want to talk about 2024 yet.”
All states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. States have already begun that process, including Michigan, where Trump and his allies tried and failed to delay the process, and Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Vote certification at the local and state level is typically a ministerial task that gets little notice, but that changed this year with Trump’s refusal to concede and his unprecedented attempts to overturn the results of the election through a fusillade of legal challenges and attempts to manipulate the certification process in battleground states he lost.
Biden won by wide margins in both the Electoral College and popular vote, where he received nearly 80 million votes, a record.