South Korea attempts to salvage North Korea peace talks and play mediator for Trump-Kim summit

The US president is still scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on 12 June in Singapore

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 17 May 2018 15:51 BST
South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha told US secretary of state Mike Pompeo they would be willing to mediate talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un
South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha told US secretary of state Mike Pompeo they would be willing to mediate talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un (AP)

South Korea is attempting to salvage peace talks with North Korea and play mediator for the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

“We decided to closely coordinate with both sides so that the upcoming [summit] will be held successfully with mutual respect,” a South Korean official said after Pyongyang had suspended talks with Seoul scheduled for this week.

North Korea said the ongoing US-South Korea military drills, which include F-16 fighter jets, were a “rehearsal for [an] invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties”. Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, also called the South Korean government “ignorant and incompetent”.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha had emergency talks after North Korea’s sudden announcement. Ms Kang assured Mr Pompeo that Seoul would “fully implement” the agreement the leaders signed and offered to mediate in order to ensure that Mr Trump and Mr Kim come to the negotiating table to discuss North Korea halting development of its nuclear weapons programme.

Analysts have said that Mr Kim’s about-face regarding better relations with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, seen just a few weeks ago smiling and raising their arms together, has less to do with calling off peace with its southern neighbour and more to do with gaining leverage with Mr Trump.

Washington insiders have said that Mr Trump showed his cards with his announcement that the US will violate the historic six-party Iran nuclear deal and impose sanctions on Tehran despite the urging of the other parties in the deal.

Mike Pompeo confident US and North Korea have 'shared understanding of ultimate objectives from summit'

“Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of South Korea,” Mr Ri said in a statement issued by the North Korean state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Kim Kye-gwan, from North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs, said: “If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the ... summit.”

Mr Trump himself said “we will have to see” if the 12 June summit in Singapore will actually take place. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that preparations for the meeting are going through and the president is “ready”.

Among other concerns is Mr Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who clashed with North Korean authorities when he worked in the administration of former president George W Bush.

Mr Kim said the country has “repugnance” towards Mr Bolton, particularly after the adviser suggested the president approach the upcoming summit as the US did with Libya in 2004, when certain components of that country’s nuclear weapons programme were shipped to the US.

Mr Moon is set to meet with Mr Trump in Washington next week to discuss the Singapore summit.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in