Thursday 18 October 2018

Trump and Kim ready for historic meeting to keep the peace in Korea

A boy looks at a Ninot, a doll depicting a celebrity that will be set alight during the Fallas festival, representing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Valencia yesterday. Photo: Jose Jordan/Getty
A boy looks at a Ninot, a doll depicting a celebrity that will be set alight during the Fallas festival, representing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Valencia yesterday. Photo: Jose Jordan/Getty

Nick Allen

Donald Trump will meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un within two months - and Mr Kim has vowed to stop nuclear tests.

In an extraordinary development, the US president said he would sit down with the Pyongyang leader "by May".

If it goes ahead, their encounter would be the first time a sitting US president has met a North Korea ruler.

It followed an invitation from Mr Kim to talk, which was conveyed to the White House by South Korean officials after they met with the leader of the rogue nation.

Chung Eui-yong, the head of South Korea's National Security Office, said Mr Kim had indicated he was committed to denuclearisation, and had pledged it would refrain from nuclear and missile tests.

Mr Chung, speaking in the White House driveway after meeting Mr Trump, said: "He (Mr Kim) expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible. President Trump appreciated the briefing, and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation."

Mr Kim has also told the Seoul delegation led by Mr Chung to Pyongyang on Monday that he understands the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea must continue.

Asian stock markets responded positively, with Japan's Nikkei climbing 2.3pc.

South Korean stocks were enjoying their best day since May, up 1.8pc, while the dollar rose against the Japanese yen.

Mr Chung added: "I explained to president Trump that his leadership and his maximum-pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture."

The US president tweeted that "great progress was being made".

The White House said Mr Trump's meeting with the North Korean leader would be held "at a place and time to be determined".

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the US looked "forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea," but said all sanctions would remain in place in the meantime.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in hailed the development. "The May meeting will be recorded as a historic milestone that realised peace on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

Unusual

Chris Hill, the former US ambassador to South Korea who headed the US delegation during the six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis from 2005, warned the world to "fasten our seatbelts".

"This is not the first time a (US) president has been asked to meet with a North Korean leader, but it's certainly to my knowledge the first time one has agreed to it," he said.

"It is quite unusual, and I'm sure there a lot of people around the president who are quite concerned about this, to put it mildly. I think we have to fasten our seatbelts. It's fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants diplomacy, kind of like the dog that's running after a car and doesn't know what to do with it when it's caught it."

Mr Hill said a meeting with the president should be decisive and with clear denuclearisation goals. "I think that if it turns into a 'grip and grin', this is a huge setback for an already beleaguered president, so I think (Mr Trump) needs to be very careful that it not be seen as just a publicity stunt," he said.

"There are a lot of problems in North Korea. This is the worst human rights situation in the world. But if North Korea were to really denuclearise, well I think Donald Trump will have cemented his place in history if he doesn't already have it now."

China welcomed the talks and urged both sides to show "political courage" in easing tensions on the Korean peninsula. However, analysts said Beijing would be concerned about being sidelined and seemingly unable to shape events. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "We welcome this positive signal by the US and North Korea in having direct dialogue."

Mr Geng added that "the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is moving in the right direction".

"We hope that all parties can demonstrate political courage and make the right political decisions," he said.

China regularly calls on Washington and Pyongyang to meet, and has blamed long-held suspicion between both sides for the tensions.

However, Chinese officials may feel anxious about not being involved in critical negotiations which could have major repercussions for north-east Asia, experts said.

Awkward

"I think China is in an awkward position as North Korea will communicate with the US directly without Beijing's involvement," said Zhang Liangui, a professor at the Central Party School in Beijing and a North Korea expert.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the announcement and said he planned to visit the US within the next month to meet Mr Trump. The Japanese leader hailed the development as "the achievement of co-operation between Japan, the US, and South Korea to maintain great pressure".

"There is no change in policy for Japan and the United States," he added. "We will keep putting on maximum pressure until North Korea takes concrete actions toward denuclearisation in a manner that is perfect, verifiable and irreversible."

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News