North and South Koreas aim for agreement to unlock nuclear talks
SEOUL (Reuters) – Leaders of South and North Korea plan to announce steps aimed at rekindling stalled nuclear talks and deepening bilateral ties after they meet for a second day of summit talks on Wednesday in the North’s capital Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in kicked off their third meeting on Tuesday, during which Kim said his “historic” summit with US President Donald Trump in June had improved regional stability and raised hopes for further progress.
A joint statement expected from the two leaders at the conclusion of their talks on Wednesday will provide clues to whether negotiations between North Korea and the United States over dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear programs could regain momentum.
The outcome will also be a litmus test for another meeting Kim has recently proposed to Trump.
Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” during his first meeting with Moon in the Demilitarised Zone that separates the two Koreas in April, and at his summit with Trump in June.
But discussions over how to implement the vague commitments have since faltered, with Washington demanding concrete action toward denuclearization by North Korea before agreeing to a key goal of Pyongyang – declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pyongyang has given no indication it is willing to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally and is seeking relief from tough international sanctions.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing on Tuesday that Washington hoped the latest North-South summit would bring about “meaningful, verifiable steps toward the denuclearization of North Korea” and called it a “historic opportunity” for Kim to follow through on commitments he made at his June summit with Trump.
Earlier, the two Korean leaders paraded down the streets of Pyongyang in Kim’s black Mercedes limousine to loud cheers from nearly 100,000 North Koreans who waved flowers and chanted “Motherland! Unification!”
Kim greeted Moon with hugs and handshakes as the South Korean leader landed in the North’s capital with a mission to rekindle momentum in faltering talks between Washington and Pyongyang over denuclearization and a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
As Kim escorted Moon to the Paekhwawon State Guest House, where Moon will stay during his three-day visit, Kim said he wanted to produce a “bigger outcome at a faster pace” than the two leaders have achieved so far.
Moon, himself the offspring of a family displaced by the war, has met Kim twice this year at the border village of Panmunjom.
“You Mr. President are traveling all around the world, but our country is humble compared with developed nations,” Kim told Moon. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for today. The level of the accommodation and schedule we provide may be low, but it’s our best sincerity and heart.”
Moon said it was “time to bear fruit” and thanked Kim for his hospitality, which included a massive welcome ceremony at Pyongyang International Airport featuring a large, goose-stepping honor guard and a military band.
During their motor parade through Pyongyang’s landmark Ryomyong Street, a new residential district launched last year under Kim’s initiative to modernize the city, Kim and Moon briefly stepped out of the vehicle to greet and take flowers from members of the crowd.