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Moon’s plans stalled after Chile cancels APEC meet

Nov 01,2019
South Korean President Moon Jae-in was gearing up for a round of hectic summit diplomacy in November, but that now looks uncertain due to Chile’s abrupt announcement to call off an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

Moon planned to attend the two-day session, supposed to open in Santiago, Chile, on Nov. 16, following a one-night stopover in Mexico for bilateral summit talks with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

In the Chilean capital, Moon was seeking to hold one-on-one summits with some of the 19 other participants in APEC, including U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

The Blue House initially responded cautiously to Chile’s decision.

“We are aware of the news. We will have to keep an eye on [related] situations, going forward,” presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung said in a brief text message sent to reporters Wednesday night.

The next morning, a Blue House official said Chile’s announcement has caught those who have prepared for Moon’s APEC summit attendance off guard.

The president is on special leave due to the death of his mother earlier this week.

“I think we are going to have to reschedule the November itinerary,” he said.

He did not rule out the possibility that APEC members will seek an alternative venue.

The White House said it still hopes for Trump-Xi talks in November despite Chile’s move. Technically, Chile has withdrawn as host of this year’s APEC summit, and it can take place at another location.

Another Blue House official, however, said chances are low that APEC leaders will reach an agreement on a new venue fast enough for adequate preparations within the next couple of weeks.

It would be “physically” difficult for the president to spend a few days and nights in flight for such a short trip, but the Blue House is considering relations with Mexico, according to the official.

Moon’s office emphasized his resolve to keep summit diplomacy schedules intact in spite of his mother’s passing on Tuesday.

He is scheduled to head to Bangkok for the Asean Plus Three summit on Sunday. Trump and Xi are not attending it, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will apparently be present.

It seems clear that Moon and Abe have no plan for a separate meeting there amid a drawn-out chill in diplomatic ties between their countries.

The APEC meeting in Chile was more expected to set the stage for a possible showdown between Moon and Abe ahead of the Nov. 22 termination of a Seoul-Tokyo accord on sharing military information.

In his personal letter recently conveyed to Abe, Moon reaffirmed that he’s open to one-on-one dialogue.

Now that Moon has also sought at least one more bilateral meeting with Trump to discuss North Korea and pending alliance issues before the end of this year, Chile was an optimal venue.

Moon’s aides said if an alternative international meeting is held, involving Trump and Xi, Moon can be there.

Yonhap