US-North Korea: Trump speaks with President Moon following Pyongyang backflip on summit


Posted

May 20, 2018 19:23:09

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump have held discussions to ensure that the North Korea-US summit remains on track after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the high-level talks.

Key points:

  • Mr Trump remains confident his meeting with Kim Jong-un will go ahead in June
  • Mr Moon travels to Washington to meet Mr Trump on Tuesday
  • North Korea’s Red Cross Society has demanded the return of 12 restaurant workers currently in South Korea

Mr Moon and Mr Trump spoke over the phone for about 20 minutes, exchanging their views on North Korea’s recent reactions, South Korea’s presidential office said.

“The two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea-US summit set on June 12, including the upcoming South Korea-US summit,” the presidential official said.

Mr Moon and Mr Trump are set to meet on Tuesday in Washington before North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets with Mr Trump in a landmark meeting set for June 12 in Singapore.

Although a historic inter-Korean summit in late April raised hopes of reconciliation, North Korea showed a dramatic change in tone in recent days.

North Korea’s chief negotiator Ri Son Gwon said on Thursday that it would not hold talks with South Korea unless their demands were met, taking issue with the US-South Korean air combat drills known as “Max Thunder”.

It came a day after it threatened to pull out of the summit with the United States, citing ongoing military exercises between the two allies as reason for the change of heart.

Despite the threats, Mr Trump has remained confident that the planned meeting in Singapore will go ahead, saying he had not heard anything about the cancelling of the summit.

North demands return of restaurant workers ‘without delay’

Further dampening the mood, a spokesman for North Korea’s Red Cross Society demanded that South Korea’s Government should send North Korean female restaurant workers back to their home “without delay” to show the will to improve the inter-Korean ties, the North’s Korea Central News agency said.

A dozen North Korean restaurant workers came to South Korea in 2016 from China, and North Korea had claimed they were abducted by the South, even though the South has said the 12 workers decided to defect of their own free will.

Lee Dong-bok, a researcher at New Asia Research Institution, said part of the reason for the North’s demands of the repatriation is to divide South Korea’s public opinion over the 12 workers.

“It is also to pressure the Moon Government to agree to its demand so that South Korea can keep up the momentum for the North Korea-US summit meeting,” Mr Lee said.

Reuters

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