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Third South-North summit could come soon

Aug 02,2018
Expectations for a third inter-Korean summit as early as this month are rising, and a senior Blue House official did not rule out the possibility Wednesday as progress between North Korea and the United States on denuclearization appears to have ground to a halt.

The Blue House official, who didn’t want to be named, said, “Nothing has been decided about a summit meeting” in a brief text message sent to reporters.

There were reports this week that President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were working to meet for the third time in August. The two agreed to meet in Pyongyang for a summit in autumn during their April 27 summit in the border village of Panmunjom.

Speculation that Moon could meet Kim earlier have arisen as Pyongyang and Washington appear to be deadlocked on the North’s denuclearization and Washington’s rewards in return, especially on some kind of guarantee of Kim Jong-un regime’s security.

“We are not yet at a stage where we discuss [with the North] a summit date. This is a matter that requires high political consideration,” continued the official in the message.

In an attempt to bring the North and the United States closer on specific steps to follow the Singapore summit on June 12, the Blue House sent Suh Hoon, chief of the National Intelligence Service, to Washington last week to discuss declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War and suspending some sanctions on the North in areas of inter-Korean cooperation.

Suh’s visit followed another by Chung Eui-yong, Moon’s security adviser, on July 20 to meet with his U.S. counterpart, John Bolton. The visits by South Korean bigwigs suggest the Blue House has reassumed its self-proclaimed role of a go-between trying to narrow the differences between Washington and Pyongyang.

In the June 12 Singapore agreement, the North said it “commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” but without stipulating a timetable or measures to achieve it.

On reports that Suh would visit Pyongyang in the coming days to share what he discussed in Washington and discuss an end-of-the-war declaration, the official said “no decision has been reached.”

While the North began dismantling parts of its Sohae missile engine test station and returned remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War to follow through on the June 12 agreement, a report by the Washington Post Monday said it appears to be furtively constructing at least one new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile.

Officials in Seoul did not deny the report and said they were closely tracking and monitoring “trends and activities in key regions” in the North.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]