How Seoul raced to clinch USA trade deal before N.Korea talks

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27, the South announced Thursday, for a rare summit meant to address the decadeslong standoff over the North's nuclear program.

"Pyongyang apparently wants to turn South Korea into an ally based on its hopes of avoiding military conflict between North Korea and the United States", said a former high-ranking South Korean government official, noting that such an arrangement would give North Korea more leverage in countering calls by the United States for it to scrap its nuclear arsenal.

The two sides said in a joint statement they would hold a working-level meeting on April 4 to discuss details of the summit, such as staffing support, security and news releases. That was only a joke, of course, but there seems to me to be no plausible reason for why Trump would tie an agreement that both the United States and South Korea have worked hard to negotiate, and which Trump himself was praising just a few days prior to the speech, to something that, in the end, that South Korea has no real control over.

The talks didn't get off to a good start as the United States "kept asking us to make concessions unilaterally", South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said in an interview broadcast live to the Blue House's Facebook account on Thursday.

Comprised of three articles, the communique states that North and South Korea will hold their summit at the House of Peace, which is located in the southern side the border in Panmunjom.


Trump wrote on Twitter he had received a message from Xi on Tuesday night that his meeting with Kim "went very well" and that Kim looked forward to meeting the USA president.

A tentative thaw began earlier this year with North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang.

"It's going to be very interesting over the next period of time, and South Korea has been wonderful, " Trump said.

It's unclear whether the leaders' meetings will lead to any meaningful breakthrough.

Leaders of the two Koreas have held talks only twice since the 1950-53 Korean War, in 2000 and 2007, under previous liberal governments in South Korea.


Cho, in response, said officials should do their best to arrange a successful summit as the "current situation was created by decisions by the highest leaders of the North and South". No date has been set, but Trump said he was willing to meet Kim by May.

Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, said: "Xi would not grant this meeting unless the Chinese were genuinely concerned about the summits to come and wanted some kind of role to play". The Kim regime can ensure its survival if it can dissuade the US from taking military action in the meantime. The change in tactics could be an attempt to ease pressure from heavy sanctions and improve its economy.

Senior U.S. officials have expressed concerns privately that Seoul is the weak link in the U.S. -Japan-South Korean alliance and could be too quick to seal a deal with North Korea.

China has always been the North's key diplomatic defender and provider of trade and aid, but relations have been strained by Pyongyang's weapons programs, with Beijing showing a new willingness to implement United Nations sanctions against it.


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