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Moon and Kim may finally use their hotline

First direct phone call could come when U.S. meeting date disclosed
May 08,2018
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will speak on a new hotline once the date for the Kim-Donald Trump summit is set, the Blue House said Monday.

“There was a general agreement [between the two Koreas] to hold a meaningful conversation over the phone instead of simply holding one out of formality,” said a senior official in the Blue House on Monday. “Once the U.S.-North Korea summit date is set, the leaders of the South and North will hold their first conversation over the phone.”

The date and location of the summit between Kim and the U.S. president have yet to be announced.

The hotline was set up on April 20, a week before the historic summit between Moon and Kim on April 27 on the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom where Moon and Kim signed a Panmunjom Declaration in which the two Koreas “confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” But the hotline has not been used yet.

Moon is expected to play the role of mediator, conveying to Kim what Trump is willing to give the North in return for denuclearization, as well as to recommend that Kim express a clear and firm intention to denuclearize during his meeting with Trump.

Since Kim promised Moon at their summit that he would shut down the Punggye-ri nuclear site in May and invite American and South Korean experts and journalists to inspect the demolition, according to Blue House, that may be on the agenda for the phone conversation.

Inter-Korean economic cooperation may be on it, too, as Moon gave Kim a USB drive with materials describing his vision for inter-Korean economic cooperation during the summit.

The Blue House said a high-level official meeting between the two Koreas on economic cooperation may take place in May.

Moon is also expected to play his mediating role during a face-to-face meeting with Trump at the White House on May 22, when the two will discuss the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, according to the Blue House.

Just a day after the inter-Korean summit, Moon spoke over the phone with Trump for one hour and 15 minutes. In the phone conversation, Moon and Trump agreed to come up with concrete measures to lead to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, according to the Blue House.

A nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is also a topic at the upcoming trilateral summit among South Korea, Japan and China in Tokyo on Wednesday, when the three countries’ leaders are expected to issue a statement.

Japanese local media reports said the three parties will likely issue a statement calling for “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement” of the North’s nuclear weapons.

North Korea, over Sunday and Monday through its state-run media and propaganda websites, criticized Japan for calling for maximum pressure and sanctions on the North for denuclearization, calling them “hostile” measures ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit.

BY WIE MOON-HEE, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]