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S. Korea to lay groundwork for Trump to talk to Kim about nukes

The Washington Post

April 18. 2018 8:31PM
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a working lunch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. April 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

SEOUL — South Korea and the United States are looking for a way to guarantee “a bright future” for North Korea if its leader, Kim Jong-un, will give up his nuclear weapons program, the national security adviser in Seoul said Wednesday, as preparations for next week’s inter-Korean summit gather pace.

The mood in South Korea has changed dramatically in just a few months, from palpable fear of another Korean war to cautious optimism about progress on the decades-long standoff on the peninsula.

The central plaza outside the Seoul city hall has been planted with flowers in the shape of a unified Korean Peninsula, news outlets have started a countdown to the April 27 summit, and the government has come up with a slogan: “Peace, a new start.” Twitter has even created a high-five emoji to go with an inter-Korean summit hashtag.

The latest sign of Kim’s willingness to cooperate came Wednesday, when officials preparing for the summit said North Korea has agreed to have key moments broadcast live.

They will include the handshake between Kim and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in at the beginning of the summit, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House said after working-level talks Wednesday.

The meeting will serve as a prelude for the summit that President Donald Trump is planning with Kim in late May or early June, in a location still being decided.

Trump has confirmed reports that Mike Pompeo, the head of the CIA and nominee to be secretary of state, visited Pyongyang recently and met Kim as part of the preparations. This is the highest-level meeting between the United States and North Korea since then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang in 2000 to meet Kim’s father.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong-un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

Trump, who prides himself on being a master negotiator but also has a penchant for the limelight, is playing up the prospect of persuading Kim to relinquish his nuclear weapons program.

That is a goal that has eluded U.S. negotiators for more than two decades, and many analysts are skeptical that the young North Korean leader, having poured so much money and effort into the program, will easily give it up.

But the South Korean government is promoting the upcoming summits as an opportunity to try.

“We’ve been making consistent efforts to peacefully improve the inter-Korean relationship, especially dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue and denuclearization of the peninsula, with the goal of peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean national security adviser who has met with Kim and Trump to arrange the summits.

Chung said Wednesday that South Korea would work to guarantee North Korea’s security and the regime’s “bright future” while persuading it to give up its nuclear weapons. He reiterated South Korea’s “gratitude” for Trump’s efforts to make progress on the issue, even as he warned against “blind optimism,” given the magnitude of the problem.

The two Koreas have been in a technical state of war for the past six decades because the Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, in 1953.

The armistice agreement, which was brokered in the same place in the demilitarized zone where Kim and Moon will meet next week, was signed by the United States on behalf of the United Nations, and by North Korea and China on the other side.


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