Asia Pacific / Politics

Trump, Moon discuss North Korean threat to scrap landmark summit

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday discussed North Korea’s recent threats to cancel its unprecedented summit with Washington, Seoul’s presidential office said.

In a phone conversation on Sunday, Trump and Moon “exchanged views on various actions taken by North Korea recently,” Moon’s office said in a statement.

The two leaders agreed to “work closely” for the success of the landmark summit in Singapore on June 12, which would be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Moon and Trump due to meet in Washington on Tuesday.

After weeks of warm words and diplomatic backslapping, Pyongyang abruptly threatened to pull out of the planned summit next month because of U.S. demands for “unilateral nuclear abandonment,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding” to the summit,” KCNA quoted Kim Kye Gwan, first vice minister of foreign affairs, as saying last Wednesday.

North Korea also canceled a ministerial-level meeting with South Korea planned for the same day, citing its opposition to ongoing joint military drills carried out by Seoul and Washington.

North Korea’s sudden shift in attitude followed a weekslong charm offensive that has seen leader Kim Jong Un hold a historic summit with Moon and meet twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At a dramatic summit last month in the Demilitarized Zone dividing their two countries, Kim and Moon pledged to pursue nuclear disarmament and a peace treaty.

Pyongyang also raised hopes ahead of the U.S. summit by announcing it will destroy its nuclear testing site next week.

But the promise is open to interpretation on both sides and the North has spent decades developing its atomic arsenal, culminating last year in its sixth nuclear test — by far its biggest to date — and the launch of missiles capable of reaching the U.S.