North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his commitment to â€œcompleteâ€ denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and to a planned meeting with US President Donald Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump signaled that preparations for a June 12 summit with Kim were going ahead, despite having called off the meeting last week.
Moon and Kim agreed at a surprise meeting on Saturday that the possible North Korea-US summit must be held, Moon told a news conference in Seoul.
â€œChairman Kim and I have agreed that the June 12 summit should be held successfully, and that our quest for the Korean peninsulaâ€™s denuclearisation and a perpetual peace regime should not be halted,â€ Moon said.
The meeting was the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic ups and downs surrounding the prospects for an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the two Korean leaders are trying to keep the on-again off-again meeting on track.
A statement from North Koreaâ€™s state news agency KCNA said Kim expressed â€œhis fixed willâ€ on the possibility of meeting Trump as previously planned.
Moon, who returned to Seoul on Thursday morning after meeting Trump in Washington in a bid to keep the high-stakes US-North Korea summit on track, said he delivered a message of Trumpâ€™s â€œfirm resolveâ€ to end the hostile relationship with North Korea and pursue bilateral economic cooperation.
In a letter to Kim on Thursday, Trump had said he was cancelling the planned Singapore summit, citing North Koreaâ€™s â€œopen hostility.â€
But on Saturday, Trump said he was still looking at a June 12 date for a summit in Singapore, adding that talks were progressing very well.
â€œWeâ€™re doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea,â€ Trump said at the White House. â€œItâ€™s moving along very nicely. So weâ€™re looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasnâ€™t changed. So, weâ€™ll see what happens.â€
A White House team will leave as scheduled for Singapore this weekend to prepare for the possible summit, a White House spokeswoman said on Saturday.
While maintaining that Kim is committed to denuclearisation, Moon acknowledged Pyongyang and Washington may have differing expectations of what that means, and he urged both sides to hold working-level talks to resolve their differences.
â€œEven though they share the same resolve, there need to be discussions regarding the roadmap for how to make it happen, and that process could be tough,â€ he said, declining to define â€œcomplete denuclearisation.â€
The Trump administration has demanded that North Korea completely and irreversibly shutter its nuclear weapons program. Kim and Trumpâ€™s initial decision to meet followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over the programme.
American officials are skeptical that Kim will ever fully abandon his nuclear arsenal, and Moon said North Korea is not yet convinced it can trust security guarantees from the United States.
â€œHowever, during the US-South Korea summit, President Trump clearly emphasised that we may see not only the end of hostile relations but also economic cooperation if North Korea denuclearises,â€ Moon said. â€œI urge North Korea and the US to confirm each otherâ€™s will by sharing their problems with each other and communicating directly.â€
A senior South Korean official later said that the two Koreas are discussing a possible non-aggression pledge and the start of peace treaty talks as a way of addressing Pyongyangâ€™s security concerns ahead of US-North Korean negotiations.
Moon said he held Saturdayâ€™s impromptu summit – the second summit between the two sides in a month – after Kim asked for a meeting â€œwithout any formality.â€
â€œA meeting was held because officials of both countries thought that meeting face-to-face would be better than a phone call,â€ Moon said, noting that the summit was in line with previous agreements for the two leaders to meet more often.
Their talks at the Panmunjom border village, which South Korean officials said lasted two hours, came after their April 27 meeting, the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade that was also held at the same venue. At that meeting, they declared they would work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
The KCNA statement said Kim and Moon agreed to hold high-level talks between their two nations on June 1, and to take steps to quickly implement their efforts to denuclearise the peninsula. KCNA said the leaders also agreed to meet frequently.
The agency said the two leaders had reached a â€œsatisfactory consensusâ€ and expressed â€œtheir stand to make joint efforts for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.â€
Video and a photo released by South Koreaâ€™s presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Kim hugging Moon and kissing him on the cheek three times as he saw Moon off after their meeting at Tongilgak, the Northâ€™s building in the truce village, which lies in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) – the 2.5-mile (4 km) wide buffer that runs along the heavily armed military border. (Reuters)