US envoy, S Korean official discuss second Trump-Kim summit

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The United States (US) special envoy for North Korea met with South Korea’s national security advisor yesterday to discuss a planned second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Seoul’s presidential office said.

Stephen Biegun explained to Chung Eui-yong on Washington’s stance toward North Korea ahead of talks on setting up the summit, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

There is speculation that Biegun will meet his North Korean counterpart at the Korean border village of Panmunjom or in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, this week.

The Blue House did not specifically say what was discussed during yesterday’s meeting, but said Chung told Biegun that South Korea hopes the planning talks between the US and North Korea will pave the way for a successful summit. Biegun arrived in Seoul on Sunday and also held talks with South Korean Foreign Ministry official Lee Do-hoon.

Trump and Kim met last June in Singapore, where they issued vague aspirational goals for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when or how it would occur. Post-summit nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have been rocky, with the countries disagreeing on which should come first – North Korea’s nuclear disarmament or the removal of US-led international sanctions against the North.

In an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation, Trump said the second summit “is set” with Kim, but provided no further details. He said there was “a very good chance that we will make a deal”.

South Korea didn’t say whether Biegun and South Korean officials discussed the possibility of partially easing the sanctions on North Korea to allow more inter-Korean cooperation and create more space for nuclear diplomacy.

United States Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun (L) talks with South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong during a meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea yesterday. – AP

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who held three summits with Kim last year and helped set up the first Trump-Kim meeting, has described inter-Korean reconciliation as crucial for resolving the nuclear standoff.

But the tough sanctions have limited the range of joint activities the two Koreas can undertake.

The Koreas have discussed ambitious plans, such as reconnecting railways and roads across their border, resuming operations at a jointly run factory park in a North Korean border town and restarting South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort.

But none is possible unless the sanctions are eased, which Washington said won’t happen unless North Korea takes stronger steps toward irreversibly and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear weapons.

In his New Year’s speech last month, Kim urged more cooperation between the Koreas and said the North is ready to reopen the factory park and resume joint tours to the resort.

Last year, North Korea released American detainees, suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantled a nuclear test site and parts of a rocket launch facility without the presence of outside experts.

It has repeatedly demanded that the US reciprocate with measures such as sanctions relief, but Washington has called for North Korea to take steps such as providing a detailed account of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal.