Korean leaders Moon and Kim meet days after NK-US summit cancellation

Monday, May 28, 2018

On Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un held an unannounced meeting in the Joint Security Area straddling the Korean Demilitarized Zone, two days after United States President Donald Trump withdrew from the scheduled June 12 high-level meeting in Singapore.

Moon initiated the meeting after hearing Trump had withdrawn from the proposed summit with Kim. Trump's decision to withdraw came on Friday after increased tensions over scheduled military exercises, North Korean official Choe Son Hui referring to US Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" and threatened nuclear action. Since then, both Pyongyang and the White House have issued statements indicating they are willing to have a meeting of some kind regardless.

Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists' Defense Posture Project referred to Trump's response as a "temper tantrum" and applauded Moon's "bold but risky" actions: "When Kim Jong-un was allowed to split the negotiations into separate tracks with Trump and Moon, he gained leverage over both," Mount told the public via Tweet. "... Trump says 'everybody plays games.' Moon Jae-in is not playing a game: he must keep his people safe from war. Each of Trump's whims shakes the walls of the Blue House." The Blue House is South Korea's presidential residence.

The meeting lasted roughly two hours. It was the second major meeting between Moon and Kim in as many months. In April, they met to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and plans for a formal peace treaty to replace the cease-fire that ended the Korean War on July 27, 1953, a measure that would require involving the US and China.

Although the White House stated their intent on withdrawing from the summit, North Korea's state-run news agency reported Friday the two leaders are still scheduled for further "high-level talks". North Korea explosively destroyed buildings and tunnels at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. The North Koreans invited international media observers to the demolitions, who later issued skeptical reports regarding the full extent of the demolition, according to NPR.