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Seoul:US,NKorea in Talks for 3rd Summit06/26 06:08

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korean and U.S. officials are holding 
"behind-the-scenes talks" to arrange a third summit between President Donald 
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the fate of the North's expanding 
nuclear arsenal, South Korea's president said, four months after a second 
meeting between the leaders in Hanoi collapsed without any agreement.

   There have been no public meetings between Washington and Pyongyang since 
the breakdown of the Hanoi summit. But the prospects for a resumption of 
U.S.-North Korea diplomacy have brightened since Trump and Kim recently 
exchanged personal letters. Trump called Kim's letter "beautiful" while Kim 
described Trump's as "excellent," though the contents of their letters have not 
been disclosed.

   In a response Tuesday to questions by The Associated Press and six other 
news agencies, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Trump's and Kim's 
"willingness to engage in dialogue has never faded" and that their recent 
letter exchanges prove that.

   Moon, a liberal who met Kim three times last year, has made dialogue with 
the North as a route to forging peace on the Korean Peninsula a centerpiece of 
his presidency. He has played a central role in facilitating U.S.-North Korean 
negotiations, even if those efforts have at times been overshadowed by the 
Trump-Kim talks that he helped broker.

   Moon said he doesn't see the Hanoi summit as a failure. He said he thinks 
the meeting served as a chance for both Washington and Pyongyang to better 
understand each other's positions and "put everything they want on the 
negotiating table."

   "The success of denuclearization and the peace process on the Korean 
Peninsula cannot be determined by a summit or two," Moon said, adding that 
discussions in Hanoi will form the basis for future talks. "Both sides clearly 
understand the necessity for dialogue," he added.

   Despite the deadlocked nuclear negotiations, both Trump and Kim have 
described their personal relationship as good. When asked whether Kim's recent 
letter included a mention about another summit, Trump said, "May be there was."

   "But we, you know, at some point, we'll do that," Trump told reporters at 
the White House on Tuesday. "Getting along very well. He's not doing nuclear 
testing," he said.

   In yet another reminder of North Korea's continued mistrust of the United 
States, its foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday it won't surrender to 
U.S.-led sanctions and accused Washington of trying to "bring us to our knees."

   Kim has said the North would seek a "new way" if the United States persists 
with sanctions and pressure. Following his setback in Hanoi, Kim traveled to 
the Russian Far East in April for his first summit with Russian President 
Vladimir Putin. Kim also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pyongyang last 
week for their fifth summit since March last year, and experts say the North's 
outreach to its traditional allies is aimed at strengthening its leverage with 
the Trump administration.

   Moon said he views the North's expanding diplomacy with Beijing and Moscow 
as a positive development in efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff.

   "China and Russia have continued to play constructive roles so far to 
peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula issue," he said. "I hope that China and 
Russia will play specific parts in helping the North resume dialogue at an 
early stage."

   Moon didn't elaborate whether U.S and North Korean officials had 
face-to-face meetings and if so where they took place. He also didn't clarify 
who were interlocutors or how close they were in setting up a third Kim-Trump 
summit.

   Trump's top envoy on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is to visit South Korea on 
Thursday, and some experts said he may use his trip as a chance to meet North 
Korean officials at a Korean border village. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 
said Sunday the U.S. was prepared to resume talks with North Korea "at a 
moment's notice" if the North signaled it wanted discussions about 
denuclearization.

   Despite a possible restart of negotiations, it's still unclear whether 
Washington and Pyongyang can eventually achieve agreements that can satisfy 
both sides. The Hanoi summit fell apart after Trump rejected Kim's calls for 
major sanctions relief in return for dismantling his main nuclear complex, 
something that U.S. officials see as a partial denuclearization step.

   Kim has since fired missiles and other weapons into the sea and asked Trump 
to work out mutually acceptable agreements by the end of this December. U.S. 
officials maintain sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until North 
Korea takes significant steps toward nuclear disarmament.

   North Korea has long bristled at the significant U.S. military presence in 
South Korea, and wants assurances it will not be targeted by the U.S. and South 
Korea. It sees its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as an 
insurance policy against military action.

   In his written replies, Moon said he has found Kim to be a "flexible yet 
resolute person" during their talks. He said he believes that Kim's 
"unequivocal resolve is to move from the past to the future" by pursuing 
economic growth over building up a nuclear arsenal.

   The South Korean leader repeated that Kim has never linked denuclearization 
with South Korea's military alliance with the U.S. or a pullout of American 
troops when they met.

   Separately from the unofficial Washington-Pyongyang talks, Moon said the two 
Koreas have also been holding dialogue via unspecified "diverse channels" and 
repeated that he's ready to meet Kim again at any place and time.

   "It depends on Chairman Kim Jong Un," Moon wrote. "I am prepared to meet 
with Chairman Kim in person at any given moment without being restrained by 
time, place or formalities."

   Last year saw a flurry of inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation programs 
between the Koreas, which have been split along the world's most heavily 
fortified border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. But North Korea has 
significantly reduced its dialogue and engagement with South Korea since the 
end of the Hanoi summit.

   South Korea is now solely proceeding with a search of Korean War dead at the 
border, which it was supposed to jointly conduct with North Korea. North Korea 
has also ignored South Korean proposals for joint efforts to stem the spread of 
highly contagious African swine fever following an outbreak in the North.

   Moon, who has stressed that South Korea should be in the "driver's seat" in 
international efforts to deal with North Korea, reiterated his view that the 
resumption of inter-Korean economic projects currently held back by the U.N. 
sanctions would help induce further denuclearization steps from the North. 
Following the Hanoi summit, Moon had said Seoul would "consult" with Washington 
on resuming operations at an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean 
border city of Kaesong and restarting South Korean tours to the North's scenic 
Diamond Mountain resort.

   While acknowledging that the resumption of such joint inter-Korean projects 
would depend on a substantive progress in U.S.-North Korea talks, Moon said 
improved economic relations between the Koreas would be "conductive" to the 
larger nuclear negotiations.

   "History has shown that North Korean nuclear threats diminish when 
inter-Korean relations are good," Moon wrote.

   He said that the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which Kim 
offered in Hanoi, could mean that the North's denuclearization process has 
entered "an irreversible stage" if it's completely demolished and verified. He 
said "substantive process" in U.S.-North Korea diplomacy could also help the 
international community seek a partial or gradual easing of the U.N. sanctions.

   Yongbyon has facilities to produce both plutonium and highly enriched 
uranium, two key nuclear ingredients. North Korea has called the complex "the 
heart" of its nuclear program, while many outside experts say it's an aging 
facility and that North Korea is believed to have additional multiple secret 
uranium enrichment facilities.

   Moon repeated earlier claims that Kim has genuine willingness to trade his 
nuclear weapons for economic and security benefits, but that it would be 
important to create an environment where the North could focus on taking 
relevant steps toward disarmament.

   "Chairman Kim should be helped along the path toward that goal in a way that 
sustains his commitment to nuclear dismantlement," Moon wrote. "I think 
creating a security environment where Chairman Kim can decisively act on 
nuclear dismantlement without worries is the fastest way to achieve 
denuclearization diplomatically," Moon added, without specifying the security 
concessions Washington and Seoul could make.


(KA)

 
 
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