SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un affirmed his commitment to "completing" the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a planned meeting with US President Donald Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump signaled that preparations for a summit meeting with Kim would take place on June 12, despite the meeting being called last week.
Moon and Kim at a surprise meeting on Saturday agreed that the potential North Korea U.S. Summit must take place, Moon said at a press conference in Seoul.
"Chairman Kim and I agreed that the June 12 summit will be held successfully and that our search for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a regime of eternal peace should not be stopped," said Moon.
The meeting was the last dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic ups and downs that saw the prospects for an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea and the strongest indication that the two Korean leaders were back on the track.
A statement by the North Korean news agency KCNA states that Kim has expressed his "strong will" to see Trump hit as planned.
Moon, returning to Seoul after meeting with Trump in Washington on Thursday morning to keep the high-level US North Korea summit on track, said he announced Trump's "firm determination" to end the hostile relationship with North Korea and pursue bilateral economic cooperation.
Trump said in a letter to Kim on Thursday that he would break off the planned summit in Singapore, calling North Korea's "open hostility."
Trump, however, said on Saturday he was still on a date for a summit meeting in Singapore on June 12 and the talks went very well.
"We are very good at the summit with North Korea," said Trump in the White House. "It's moving very well, so we're going to Singapore on June 12, it has not changed, so we'll see what happens."
A team from the White House will be heading to Singapore this weekend as planned Traveling to prepare for the possible summit, a White House spokeswoman said on Saturday.
(For a graph on the Nuclear Test website, click on tmsnrt.rs/2wGynpf)
(For graphic on Nuclear North Korea, click tmsnrt.rs/2Kql12i)
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters on Sunday that "Firmly" hoping that the Summit could take place as planned and be successful, calling on both sides to be patient and show goodwill.
"We have always believed that direct contacts and dialogue between the leaders of North Korea and the United States are crucial to solving the nuclear problem of the peninsula," it said.
Although Kim notes that he has dedicated himself to denuclearization, Kim acknowledged that Pyongyang and Washington have different expectations, and called on both sides to hold talks at the working level to resolve their differences.
"Although they share the same determination, the roadmap must discuss how to achieve this, and this process could be difficult," he said, declining to define "complete denuclearization."
The Trump government has called on North Korea to cease its nuclear weapons program completely and irreversibly. Kim's and Trump's first decision to meet was followed by months of wartime threats and insults between the leaders about the program.
American officials are skeptical that Kim will ever completely abandon his nuclear arsenal, and Moon said that North Korea is not yet convinced that it can trust US security guarantees.
"However, during the US-South Korea Summit, President Trump has clearly stated that we can see not only the end of hostile relations but also economic cooperation if North Korea becomes denuclear," Moon said. "I urge North Korea and the US to confirm their mutual will by sharing their problems and communicating directly with each other."
A senior South Korean official later said the two Koreas were discussing a possible non-aggression and the beginning of the war peace negotiations to address Pyongyang's security concerns over US-North Korea negotiations.
"BETTER THAN A PHONE"
Moon said he had held the impromptu summit on Saturday – the second between the two sides of the month – after Kim asked for a meeting "without any formality."
"A meeting was held because the officials of both countries thought that a face-to-face meeting would be better than a phone call," Moon said, noting that the summit was in line with previous government leaders' previous agreements.
Their talks in the Panmunjom Border Village, which took two hours, according to the South Korean officials, came after their meeting on April 27, the first in-country summit in more than a decade, also held in the same location. At the meeting, they said they would work towards a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and a formal end to the Korean War of 1950-1953.
The KCNA statement said that Kim and Moon had agreed to hold high-level talks between their two nations on June 1 and to take action to quickly implement their efforts to denuclearize the peninsula. KCNA said the leaders also agreed to meet frequently.
The agency said the two leaders had reached a "satisfactory consensus" and "expressed their views on making joint efforts to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula".
A video and a photo of South Korea's President Blue House on Saturday showed Kim hugging and kissing him on the cheek three times when he watched the demilitarized zone – the Moon after their meeting in Tongilgak, the building of the North Armistice 4-kilometer-wide buffer that runs along the heavily armed military border.
Additional coverage of Soyoung Kim, Choonsik Yoo and Jeongmin Kim in SEOUL and Ben Blanchard and Elias Glenn in BEIJING; Arrangement of Raju Gopalakrishnan and Paul Tait