President Moon Jae-in on Thursday said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s trip to China hints that the second US-North Korea summit is imminent and that Kim’s visit to Seoul is likely to follow in its wake.
Speaking at a New Year’s press conference, Moon ruled out the possibility of North Korea’s denuclearization and a potential peace treaty being linked to the US military presence in South Korea, Japan and the Pacific.
“To put it simply, Chairman Kim Jong-un’s trip to China is a sign that the second North Korea-US summit is near,” Moon said. On Monday, Kim made his fourth trip to China, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and inspected industrial facilities.
Going on to say that China has played a positive role in issues related to denuclearization and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, Moon said that Kim’s trip will have a “very positive effect on the success” of the North Korean leader’s second meeting with US President Donald Trump.
The US and the North Korea are reportedly working on hammering out the schedule and location of their second summit.
“(Kim’s) visit to Seoul will be the first by a North Korean leader, so in itself it will be a very important, major turning point in inter-Korean relations,” Moon said, adding that he was certain that the trip will be made, as the North Korean leader personally made the promise.
Kim agreed to visit Seoul during the third inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang in September. Although Moon at the time said that the visit would be within the year, Kim’s visit did not materialize, for which the North Korean leader expressed regret in a letter to Moon.
“However, as it is linked to the second North Korea-US summit, I think that Kim Jong-un’s visit would be more smoothly arranged after the second North Korea-US summit.”
Moon added that matters related to establishing peace and declaring the end of the Korean War can be considered as measures corresponding to Pyongyang’s denuclearization steps, and that he hopes the differences in Pyongyang and Washington’s views on the issues will be resolved through the second Trump-Kim meeting.
Moon, however, made it clear that North Korea taking denuclearization steps is the key to resolving the matter.
“Ultimately, resolving the issue of North Korean sanctions is dependent on the speed of denuclearization, so North Korea needs to take bolder practical denuclearization steps,” Moon said regarding the deadlock in US-North Korea negotiations.
On the issue of differences in the stances of the US and North Korea, Moon said he believes that both sides are fully aware of each other’s views but that distrust built up over the years is holding back either side from taking the first step.
In response to a question regarding Kim’s idea of denuclearization, Moon stressed that the North Korean leader’s view is no different from that of the international community.
“Kim has made it clear to me, President Trump, President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin that (his idea of denuclearization has) no differences with the complete denuclearization the international community demands,” Moon said.
Moon added that while he is aware of concerns that Kim might make demands regarding the US military presence, Kim has made it clear that denuclearization and declaring the end of the war are unrelated to US Forces Korea.
“US Forces Korea is not linked to denuclearization, (the US military) is in Korea as part of the South Korea-US alliance, therefore the matter of whether US Forces Korea will be maintained or not is entirely up to South Korea and the US,” Moon said.
Regarding the possibility of North Korea making demands on US strategic assets in Japan and Guam in return for denuclearization, Moons said that he does not consider it a likely possibility.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org