Moon keeps U.S.-N. Korea summit from falling apart, for now

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sought to keep U.S. President Donald Trump from backing away from his scheduled summit with North Korea on Tuesday, apparently to some avail, as the leaders later agreed to push for the summit as scheduled.

"President Moon and President Trump agreed to do their utmost so the U.S.-North Korea summit scheduled for June 12 will be held without any disruption," said Yoon Young-chan, the chief press secretary from Seoul's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae.

The agreement came in a bilateral summit between Moon and Trump in Washington.

Trump earlier hinted at a possible delay in his summit with Kim, noting a change of attitude on the North Korean side.

"There are certain conditions that we want. And I think we will get those conditions. And if we don't, we don't have the meeting," Trump told reporters when asked whether his scheduled summit with Kim would take place as scheduled.

"That doesn't mean it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12," he added.

Trump's skepticism may have been expected following recent harsh rhetoric from North Korea, which has also threatened to reconsider the U.S.-North Korea summit set to be held in Singapore.

Still, the hint of a delay may have stung the South Korean president, especially when it came from his country's oldest and strongest ally.

"I am very well aware that there are skeptical views in the U.S. on whether the North Korea-U.S. summit would succeed and if complete denuclearization of North Korea would be realized," Moon told reporters shortly before his summit with Trump, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

"However, there may never be any development in history should we remain skeptical and expect failure just because we have failed before," Moon was quoted as saying.

In an earlier meeting with top U.S. security officials, including White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, Moon urged continued preparations for the Trump-Kim summit.

"(He) especially urged the U.S. officials to continue preparing for the summit calmly and without any second thoughts, insisting that Chairman Kim Jong-un certainly remains committed to the success of the North Korea-U.S. summit despite the attitude the North has shown recently," Moon's chief press secretary, Yoon Young-chan, said of the meeting that also involved U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The North Korean leader affirmed his commitment to complete denuclearization in a summit with Moon, held at the border village of Panmunjom.

However, the North's behavior since has raised questions about its commitment to, as well as its definition of, complete denuclearization, even in South Korea.

Pyongyang has indefinitely suspended its high-level dialogue with Seoul, originally set to take place last week.

It has also threatened to reconsider its summit with the U.S. should Washington demand its unilateral and unconditional denuclearization with no guarantees for benefits until its full denuclearization.

Moon reassured his U.S. counterpart that the North Korean leader is in fact serious about denuclearizing, also insisting that inter-Korean dialogue would soon be restored following the end of an ongoing joint military exercise of South Korean and U.S. troops.

"While noting there was no need to question North Korea's willingness to hold the North Korea-U.S. summit, President Moon stressed the need for practical and detailed discussions between the North and the U.S. on ways to denuclearize and guarantee the North's security," Yoon said.

Trump has said the nuclear deal he had in mind for the impoverished North did not call for such one-sided steps and that Kim would be "very, very happy" if they reached a deal in their June 12 meeting.

Moon noted many South Koreans and Americans alike may have felt deceived or betrayed while negotiating with North Korea over the past 25 years, but said the ongoing negotiation with the communist state may be different in that the latest efforts to rid the North of its nuclear ambitions directly involve the North's highest decision-maker.

"There have been many agreements between the North and the U.S. until now, but this is the first time an agreement is being pursued by the countries' leaders," the South Korean president said.

"I am confident President Trump will be able to formally end the Korean War, which could not be done over the past 65 years, by successfully holding the North Korea-U.S. summit while also establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and normalizing diplomatic ties between the U.S. and North Korea at the same time," he added.

Moon's efforts to keep the U.S.-North Korea summit alive appeared to pay off when he and Trump discussed ways to remove possible concerns held by North Korea over its safety, according to Yoon.

Trump renewed his peace offering to Pyongyang.

"I will guarantee his safety. We will guarantee his safety," Trump said earlier when asked if he planned to provide a security guarantee to the North following its complete denuclearization.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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