President Moon Jae-in headed to Washington on Wednesday to begin another round of summit diplomacy aimed at reviving nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, was quoted as calling for creativity to deal with the “prevailing tense situation” ahead of a key meeting of the communist state’s parliamentary body.
Both events, which are scheduled for Thursday, will be closely watched for signs of progress in efforts to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons more than a month after the second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump collapsed without agreement.
The stakes are high for Moon, who is reviving his role as mediator in a bid to maintain calm on the divided peninsula after a series of missile and nuclear tests by the North and bellicose rhetoric from Trump raised fears of a nuclear war in 2017.
“Our government will do what we can in order to maintain the current momentum for dialogue and help negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea resume at an early date,” Moon’s office said Wednesday.
“In light of diplomatic protocol and etiquette, we believe that President Moon might invite President Trump to visit Korea as well.”
The South Korean president, whose government has initiated a series of economic initiatives with the North, has frequently stepped in to get talks back on track since diplomatic efforts began in force early last year.
Trump and Kim agreed to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” during their first summit in Singapore, but the two sides have failed to overcome key differences on how to accomplish that.
The United States insists on maintaining tough economic sanctions until denuclearization is achieved.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that Tuesday while discussing the State Department budget request for 2020 during a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing.
He said the desired outcome “is a fully verifiably denuclearized peninsula and greater peace, less risk in conventional means and hopefully a brighter future for the North Korean people.”
South Korean officials insist the allies, who fought together against the communist-backed North in the 1950-53 war, remain in lockstep over the end goal and the need for sanctions.
The North wants a reciprocal approach in which it’s rewarded for steps already taken, including a testing moratorium.
Kim Jong Un told senior leaders of the ruling Workers Party “to fully display a high sense of responsibility and creativity, and the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and fortitude in an attitude befitting the masters of the revolution and construction under the prevailing tense situation,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday.
The remarks came two days before North Korea is to hold the first session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, which is expected to formally approve Kim’s economic policies and possibly a new strategy for dealing with the United States.
The North has expressed increasing frustration over the nuclear impasse. Kim Jong Un warned in his New Year’s Day address that the North may have no choice “but to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country.”
Another senior official said on March 15 that North Korea is considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink its testing freeze unless Washington makes concessions.
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