Sunday, December 16, 2018 | ePaper

S Korea relieved about Trump-Kim summit revival efforts

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AP, Seoul :
South Korea on Saturday expressed cautious relief about the revived talks for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Trump canceling the highly-anticipated meeting before saying it's potentially back on.
The statement by Seoul's presidential office came hours after Trump welcomed North Korea's conciliatory response to his Thursday letter withdrawing from the summit with Kim and said that the meeting might be getting back on track. Trump later on Saturday tweeted that the summit, if it does happen, will likely take place on June 12 in Singapore as originally planned.
"We see it as fortunate that the embers of dialogue between North Korea and the United States weren't fully extinguished and are coming alive again," Seoul's presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement. "We are carefully watching the developments."
South Korea, which brokered the talks between Washington and Pyongyang, was caught off guard by Trump's abrupt cancellation of the summit citing hostility in recent North Korean comments. South Korean President Moon Jae-said Trump's decision left him "perplexed" and was "very regrettable." He urged Washington and Pyongyang to resolve their differences through "more direct and closer dialogue between their leaders." Moon and Kim held a historic summit in April where they announced vague aspirations for a nuclear-free peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to sell as a meaningful breakthrough to set up the summit with Trump. Trump's back-and-forth over his summit plans with Kim has exposed the fragility of Seoul as an intermediary. It fanned fears in South Korea that the country may lose its voice between a rival intent on driving a wedge between Washington and Seoul and an American president who thinks less of the traditional alliance with Seoul than his predecessors. Early this month, North Korea canceled a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea's participation in regular military exercises with the United States and insisted that it will not return to talks unless its grievances are resolved.
Trump's decision to pull out of the summit with Kim came just days after he hosted Moon in a White House meeting where he openly cast doubts on the Singapore meeting but offered no support for continued inter-Korean progress, essentially ignoring the North's recent attempts to coerce the South. In his letter to Kim, Trump objected specifically to a statement from senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui. She referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" for his earlier comments on North Korea and said it was up to the Americans whether they would "meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown."

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