Sunday 21 October 2018

More casual North Korea talks on the way - Moon

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is happy to keep talking. Photo: Reuters
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is happy to keep talking. Photo: Reuters

Hyonhee Shin

South Korea President Moon Jae-in said there could be more impromptu talks and summits with North Korea's Kim Jong-un as US officials prepare for a historic meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim.

Mr Moon and Mr Kim held a surprise meeting on Saturday, in which they agreed a North Korea-US summit must be held.

"What's more important than anything from the latest inter-Korean summit was that the leaders easily got in contact, easily made an appointment and easily met to discuss urgent matters, without complicated procedures and formalities, just like a casual meeting," Mr Moon told senior officials.

Mr Trump last week pulled out of the meeting with Mr Kim, planned for June 12 in Singapore, before announcing he had reconsidered and American and North Korean officials were meeting to work out details.

On Sunday, the US State Department said US and North Korean officials had met at Panmunjom, a village in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) alongside the heavily armed border between North and South Korea. A "pre-advance" team of US officials was also travelling to Singapore to meet North Koreans there, the White House said.

A US official said Sung Kim, the former US ambassador to South Korea, was leading their delegation to meet North Korean officials at the border.

"It's a good thing to have him on board," said a former senior South Korean official who worked with Sung Kim in past. "He's capable, level-headed, cautious, and has solid grasp of the issues and knows North Koreans well. But at the same time he has healthy scepticism."

Pentagon official Randall Schriver was also part of the US team, the US official said. It was reported the team met Choe Son-hui, the North Korean deputy foreign minister. The US delegation also included Allison Hooker, Korea expert on the National Security Council.

After weeks of political posturing by both Mr Trump and Mr Kim, analysts welcomed the news the US had dispatched a team of seasoned negotiators to hold several days of preparatory talks with the North Koreans.

"Sending such an experienced and professional team signals the Trump administration is getting serious about the specifics of an agreement," said former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, Abraham Denmark. "It's also an implicit acknowledgment that running this negotiation out of the Oval Office has not worked, and that lower-level officials are needed to work out the details before a summit can take place."

However, with only two weeks left until the scheduled summit, such talks are unlikely to reconcile the differing positions over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal, he said.

Irish Independent

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