North and South Korea Set a Date for Summit Meeting at Border


The meeting will be the third ever held between leaders of the two Koreas. Mr. Kim’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, met with two South Korean presidents — Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007 — in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

The diplomacy was welcomed by the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, who has repeatedly expressed angst about the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula. “I think there is here an opportunity for a peaceful solution to something that, a few months ago, was haunting us as the biggest danger we were facing,” Mr. Guterres told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

South Korean envoys who met with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang early this month said he had expressed willingness to negotiate with the United States about normalizing ties and giving up his country’s nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees. Mr. Kim also promised to suspend all nuclear and missile tests while talks were underway, the envoys said.

Mr. Kim offered then to meet directly with Mr. Trump, who quickly accepted. No date has been set, but Mr. Trump said he was willing to meet Mr. Kim by May, after Mr. Moon’s discussions with him.

This week, Mr. Kim surprised both South Korea and the United States by secretly visiting Beijing, in his first trip outside North Korea since taking power. He met with President Xi Jinping of China, the North’s traditional communist ally, in a bid to mend frayed ties before meeting Mr. Moon and Mr. Trump.

In his discussions with Mr. Xi, Mr. Kim reaffirmed his intention to meet with the two leaders, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency. Later Thursday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency for the first time confirmed Mr. Kim’s plan to meet with Mr. Moon, without disclosing the time and venue of their meeting. It has yet to announce a planned summit meeting with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Moon’s office, in its first comment on the Beijing meeting, said on Thursday that it was a welcome development, calling it “highly significant” that Mr. Kim had reportedly confirmed his willingness to discuss denuclearization and meet with the American and South Korean presidents.

Mr. Trump’s ready acceptance of direct talks with Mr. Kim stunned much of the world. If that meeting indeed takes place — some American officials have expressed doubts — Mr. Trump will be the first sitting American president to meet a North Korean leader. The United States fought against the North during the Korean War and has no diplomatic ties with it.

American officials have been reaching out to the North Koreans in hopes of hearing directly from them about Mr. Kim’s intentions. Officials hope that Mr. Moon’s meeting with Mr. Kim will provide further clues to Mr. Kim’s strategy and help Washington prepare for Mr. Trump’s own meeting with the North Korean leader.

Officials and analysts disagree about whether Mr. Kim’s recent outreach represents a real move toward dismantling his nuclear arsenal or a short-term ploy to confuse his enemies, gain relief from international sanctions and buy time to advance his arms programs further.

When Mr. Kim met with Mr. Xi on Monday, he proposed “phased, synchronized” moves toward denuclearization, which is the same approach the North insisted on in past negotiations with Washington. In those talks, the North offered to take incremental steps toward giving up its nuclear program, beginning with a freeze, and demanded that the United States reciprocate with incentives like fuel oil shipments.

Past discussions with the North produced agreements that called for the eventual dismantlement of the program. But they all eventually collapsed, as Washington and Pyongyang accused each other of reneging on those phased measures.

Mr. Kim’s call for step-by-step denuclearization appears to preclude the kind of rapid dismantlement that John R. Bolton called for this month, days before Mr. Trump appointed him as his national security adviser. Analysts suspect Mr. Kim’s approach would result in drawn-out negotiations with no assurance that the North will ever denuclearize completely.

Still, Mr. Moon’s office, which abhors the prospect of military action against the North, says negotiations are the only realistic approach. Mr. Moon has also called for synchronized steps leading to the North’s denuclearization, starting with a freeze in its nuclear activities. But the South Koreans and the Americans have both said they will not repeat the mistakes of the past, a reference to Mr. Trump’s assertions that prior presidents gave North Korea too many concessions and got little in return.

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Source : Nytimes