South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday floated the possibility of a three-way summit involving the two Koreas and the United States in the wake of an North-South summit scheduled for next month and a possible meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before the end of May.
“Holding a North Korea-U.S. summit following a South-North Korea summit itself is a historical event. And depending on their outcomes, they may lead to a three-way summit of South, North and U.S.,” Moon as was quoted as saying after a preparatory meeting for the inter-Korean summit at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.
“We must completely resolve the issues of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and establishing peace through these upcoming talks and others that will follow,” he added.
South Korea wants to hold high-level talks with North Korea on March 29 to discuss a date and agenda for the inter-Korean summit, Moon’s presidential office said.
North and South Korean officials should be able to agree on when the summit between Moon and Kim will take place once the officials from both sides meet this month, media reports quoted a Blue House official as saying.
Moon said that the planned talks — especially the U.S.-North Korea summit — were an “unexplored path.”
Still, he said, there were clear plans as to their objective and how to achieve that.
“Though it is an unexplored path we have never walked, we have clear plans and a clear vision of goals we seek to achieve through an agreement between the leaders of the South, North and the U.S.,” Moon was quoted as saying.
“They may be the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and the normalization of the North-U.S. relationship, development of South-North Korean relations and economic cooperation between the North and the U.S. or the North, U.S. and South Korea,” he said.
Trump shocked both those inside and outside his administration earlier this month when he told visiting South Korean officials who had returned from talks with Kim in Pyongyang days earlier that he would be willing to accept the North Korean leader’s invitation to meet.
The officials had told Trump that Kim voiced a commitment to the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and pledged to refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests while talks were ongoing. They said he also “understands” that annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises would continue this year.
The U.S. and South Korea announced Tuesday that a toned-down version of those military drills would begin April 1 amid the potentially monumental thaw in ties with nuclear-armed North Korea.
The main Foal Eagle field exercise, which usually lasts two months, is scheduled to begin April 1 and last for a month, while the computer-simulated Key Resolve tabletop drills will be held for two weeks starting in mid-April, a South Korean military official was quoted as saying.
Pyongyang, meanwhile, broke its silence on the easing tensions with Washington and Seoul, saying in a commentary in state-run media that it has been the driving force behind the “peace offensive” and that a raft of punishing sanctions had not brought it to the negotiating table.
“The great change in the north-south relations is not an accidental one but a noble fruition made thanks to the DPRK’s proactive measure, warm compatriotism and will for defending peace,” it said.
“Such rubbish as ‘result of sanctions and pressure’ and sort of ‘limit’ spread by the hostile forces is just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” it added.
While the commentary published by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) late Tuesday did not directly mention the summits, it did note the “dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation” with the South and “a sign of change” with the United States.
However, it said that the invitations from Kim had come from a position of strength. North Korea declared in late November, after the successful launch of it’s longest-range missile to date, that it had “realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
Tuesday’s commentary reflected the view that it would have the upper hand in any talks with the South and U.S.
“The dialogue peace offensive of the DPRK is an expression of self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires,” it said.
Separately, Japan, China and South Korea have agreed in principle to hold a trilateral summit in early May, possibly from May 8 to 9, several diplomatic sources were quoted as saying late Tuesday.
The sixth trilateral summit between Japan, China and South Korea was last held in November 2015 in Seoul. The meeting, to be chaired by Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korea’s Moon, is expected to include discussions on steps to boost cooperation in the fields covering the economy, environment and culture. North Korea would also likely figure prominently in any discussions.
To lay the groundwork for the trilateral summit, the Japanese and Chinese governments are planning for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Japan next month, according to diplomatic sources. Wang was promoted to state councilor in charge of foreign affairs Monday.