South, North Korean Leaders Meet for Second Time

South, North Korean Leaders Meet for Second Time

Saturday, 26 May, 2018 - 18:15
South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet at the Panmunjom truce village on May 26. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the second time in less than a month.

Their historic second meeting on Saturday was held in wake of US President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a much-anticipated summit with Kim that was set for next month.

"They exchanged views and discussed ways to implement the Panmunjom Declaration and to ensure a successful US North Korea summit," Seoul's presidential Blue House said in a statement, adding Moon would make a personal statement on Sunday morning.

The leaders held talks for two hours in the same Panmunjom truce village where they had met on April 27, making a declaration vowing to improve ties.

Pictures showed them shaking hands and embracing on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two nations.

The meeting is the latest remarkable diplomatic chapter in a roller coaster of developments on the Korean peninsula.

Trump had rattled the region on Thursday by cancelling his meeting with Kim which had been due to take place in Singapore on June 12 citing "open hostility" from Pyongyang.

But within 24 hours he reversed course saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.

Moon met with Kim in an effort to ensure the landmark meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader goes ahead.

Trump's original decision to abandon the historic summit blindsided South Korea which had been brokering a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang.

However, there was a further signal from the US Saturday the June 12 summit may yet go ahead as the White House said it would send a team to Singapore to prepare for the meeting.

"The White House pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Moon, a longtime advocate of engagement with the North, won election last year partly by vowing to be open to dialogue with Pyongyang and finding a solution to a Cold War-era sore that continues to blight the region.

But the flurry of diplomatic backslapping and bonhomie disappeared in recent weeks as the summit was thrown into doubt by increasingly bellicose rhetoric from both top US administration officials and Pyongyang.

Trump eventually pulled the plug on talks in a personal letter to Kim on Thursday.

But he left the door open to future meetings and Pyongyang responded by saying it was willing to sit down "at any time", prompting Trump to reply that the Singapore summit could still take place.

Saturday's meeting between Moon and Kim took place in a grand building on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, a heavily fortified village that lies between the two countries and marks the spot where the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 was signed.

Koh Yu-hwan, an expert on Korean relations at Dongguk University, said Saturday's meeting between Moon and Kim increased the likelihood of the Singapore summit taking place as originally intended.

"Today's summit is aimed at resolving the misunderstanding caused by communication glitches between Washington and Pyongyang and lay the groundwork for the US-North Korea summit," he told AFP.

Unlike last month's summit, which was held in front of live TV cameras, Saturday's meeting was much more low-key, taking place in utmost secrecy, with reporters only being told later that the face-to-face had taken place.

Footage released by the Blue House on Twitter, accompanied by a dramatic orchestral score, showed Moon arriving in a convoy of cars and first shaking hands with Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong, who has played a major public role in recent talks with the South, including leading a delegation across the border during February's Winter Olympics.

Saturday's talks are only the fourth time serving leaders of the two Koreas, who remain technically at war, have ever met.

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