North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made a dramatic gesture that may create prospects for easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula by inviting South Korean President Moon Jae-in to meet in Pyongyang.
The invitation was verbally delivered by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, during a Saturday meeting at Moon’s presidential compound in Seoul a period after the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in South Korea. A Moon-Kim summit would mark the first time leaders of two countries have met in 11 years.
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Moon’s office conflicting reports of whether he would go to Pyongyang. A Blue House official initially said the president had accepted Kim’s offer, but that was later denied by chief spokesman Yoon Young-chan.
” What the president said exactly is let’s create the right circumstances to make it happen ,” Yoon said in a statement.” And we hope you take specific comments as it is .”
Shin Jee-yeon, another official in Moon’s office, later told reporters:” We should read more into it that there are preconditions that should be met rather than calling it a conditional adoption .”
While a summit in Pyongyang would signal warming ties on the peninsula, it also risks driving a wedge in the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea. President Donald Trump has sought to maximize pressure on North Korea to convince Kim to give up his atomic weapon, and his administration hasn’t ruled out a preemptive attack.
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North’s state-run media KCNA
reported on Sunday that the delegation had an” honest and open-minded” debate with South Korea’s representatives on improving relations, and described talks with Moon as” sincere and warm .”
Moon sought to reassure U.S. Vice President Mike Pence that the friends remained in lockstep despite North Korea’s joint appearance at the Olympics.
” For all that President Moon has done in outreach and deliberations around the Olympics and inter-Korean talks, there is no daylight between the United States and the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic-missile program ,” Pence told reporters Saturday aboard Air Force One.
Pence knew of the summon but did not discuss it with Moon Saturday while they watched a speed-skating event together, a senior White House official said. The summon doesn’t undermine Pence’s message or purpose of his trip to the Olympics in any way, the official said.
At the lunch session, Moon committed a toast to Inter-Korean peace and prosperity.
” The whole world is watching us here today and anticipations on both Koreas are high ,” Moon said.
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