NEW YORK/SEOUL – U.S. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart held a summit in New York on Monday to discuss plans to restart U.S.-North Korea talks, as the allies hold discussions in Seoul on sharing the cost of American soldiers stationed in South Korea.
Though negotiations with North Korea have stalled since a failed second summit between Trump and its leader Kim Jong Un in February, the North has said it is willing to restart working-level talks in late September. However, no date or location have been set.
South Korea’s spy agency, however, said Tuesday that the U.S. and North are expected to resume the working-level talks within two or three weeks, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
If the two sides can reach an agreement at the upcoming talks, Trump and Kim could hold their third summit this year, lawmakers quoted the National Intelligence Service (NIS) as saying.
Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed ways to achieve practical results in the U.S.-North Korea working-level talks, South Korea’s presidential office said, while Trump expressed his confidence that Kim will fulfill commitments made during the two summits, a White House statement said.
“There’s been no nuclear testing at all,” Trump told reporters as he met Moon on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
“And the relationships have been very good. … We want to see if we can do something. If we can, that’ll be great. And if we can’t, that’s fine, we’ll see what happens.”
Moon said he hopes working-level negotiations between the United States and North Korea will be held soon to prepare for a third summit, but Trump said he would want to know what would result from a third summit with Kim before agreeing to hold it.
“Right now, people would like to see that happen. I want to know what’s going to be coming out of it. We can know a lot before the summit takes place,” Trump said.
During their meeting, Trump and Moon reaffirmed their previous pledge not to use force against North Korea, and if North Korea denuclearizes, to provide a bright future for the country, a senior official at South Korea’s presidential Blue House said.
However, there was no mention of a “new method” of approach on North Korea’s denuclearization during their meeting, while they talked about how sanctions must be maintained, the senior official said.
North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, last week welcomed Trump’s suggestion for a “new method” in talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs, saying he wanted to be “optimistic” the United States would present the “right calculation method.”
Last week, Trump distanced himself from a suggestion by his former national security adviser, John Bolton, for a Libyan model of denuclearization for North Korea, saying it “set us back very badly.” Bolton was fired this month, with Trump naming Robert O’Brien as new national security adviser.
Before his sit-down with Moon, Trump said the two would discuss North Korea’s repeated launches of short-range missiles in recent weeks.
“We didn’t have an agreement on short-range missiles. And a lot of people and a lot of countries test short-range missiles,” Trump added. “There’s nothing spectacular about that.”
During the closed-door session with lawmakers, the South’s spy agency also said that, depending the outcome of nuclear negotiations with the U.S., Kim could visit South Korea in November to attend a special summit between the South and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
South Korea plans to host the special summit in the southern port city of Busan on Nov. 25-26 in an effort to promote ties with ASEAN.
The spy agency also said Kim could make his fifth visit to China for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“If Kim visits China, the location may be near China’s border with North Korea or three northeastern provinces in China,” the NIS added.
Meanwhile, Moon played up the South’s alliance with the United States during his talks with Trump, after Seoul’s decision to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan stoked concern in Washington.
Moon said South Korea-U.S. ties are developing into a “great alliance” and that he looks forward to “candid discussions” with Trump on strengthening them.
In late August, South Korea formally informed Japan of its decision not to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which expires on Nov. 23, amid an intensifying spat between the two neighbors over wartime history and trade policy.
The South Korean decision has led to concern about a weakening alliance with the United States, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing dismay at the move.
“We’re disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing agreement,” Pompeo said shortly after the South Korean announcement.
In a move that could impact future U.S. negotiations on military burden-sharing with Japan, talks on renewing a cost-sharing deal between Seoul and Washington were set to begin Tuesday, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said.
During their talks in New York, Trump and Moon spoke about how a quick conclusion of a new military burden-sharing agreement before the end of 2019 will be a way to further strengthen their alliance, the White House said in a statement.
South Korea has shouldered part of the cost of stationing what is now about 28,500 U.S. troops in the country since a 1991 pact. In March, it signed a deal with the United States to pay 1.04 trillion won ($870.94 million) this year — an increase of 8.2 percent on the year.
The agreement expires at the end of this year.
Trump has repeatedly urged the South to contribute more to the cost. “Talks have begun to further increase payments to the United States,” he wrote last month on Twitter, adding, “South Korea is a very wealthy nation.”
Moon detailed South Korea’s contribution to the stationing of U.S. troops in Korea, including increasing purchases of U.S. weapons, future purchase plans, as well as a steady increase in South Korea’s share of costs, the senior Blue House official said.