News & Politics

Hope for Summit Rises as Kim, Moon Meet at Border

In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House via Yonhap News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in embrace each other after their meeting at the northern side of the Panmunjom in North Korea, Saturday, May 26, 2018. (South Korea Presidential Blue House/Yonhap via AP)

Prospects for a summit between President Donald Trump and N. Korean leader Kim Jong-un brightened yesterday when Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had an unscheduled meeting at the border.

Associated Press:

Kim and Moon met hours after South Korea expressed relief over revived talks for a summit between Trump and Kim following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Trump cancel the highly anticipated meeting before saying it’s potentially back on.

Moon, who brokered the summit between Washington and Pyongyang, likely used Saturday’s meeting to confirm Kim’s willingness to enter nuclear negotiations with Trump and clarify what steps Kim has in mind in the process of denuclearization, said Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

“While Washington and Pyongyang have expressed their hopes for a summit through published statements, Moon has to step up as the mediator because the surest way to set the meeting in stone would be an official confirmation of intent between heads of states,” Hong said.

Trump tweeted Friday that a summit with Kim, if it does happen, will likely take place on June 12 in Singapore as originally planned.

South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said Moon will reveal details of his meeting with Kim on Sunday.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the rivals organized what appeared to be an emergency summit. Ahead of their first summit last month, Kim and Moon established a hotline that they said would enable direct communication between the leaders and would be valuable to defuse crises, but it was unclear whether it was used to set up the latest meeting.

It should be obvious by now that the diplomatic moves taking place on the Korean peninsula are not in any foreign policy handbook. Trump’s “cancellation” of the summit wasn’t a bluff as much as it was just another move on the chessboard. How desperate is Kim for a summit? Wouldn’t that be useful to know? Kim and Moon’s meeting gives us a pretty good indication that Kim is willing to go the extra mile to make the summit happen.

Both leaders have invested their personal prestige in a summit taking place. Whether it’s “successful” or not (whose definition of “success” is valid?) is probably beside the point. What matters is that it will be an opening gambit in a very long negotiation that will probably be “canceled” several times by both sides.