WASHINGTON, The leaders of South Korea and the United States were set to hold a bilateral summit Thursday as they struggle to keep their denuclearization negotiations with North Korea from falling apart.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump were scheduled to meet at the White House later in the day. The meeting will be their seventh since Moon took office in May 2017. The South Korean leader arrived here Wednesday.
The Moon-Trump summit follows the recent collapse of the second U.S.-North Korea summit held in Hanoi in late February.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un abruptly walked away from their two-day meeting without signing a deal.
Moon refuses to call the Hanoi meeting a failure, insisting Trump and Kim have already achieved more than any other leaders have in nearly 70 years.
South Korea and the United States are technically at war with the North as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice.
Still, Moon apparently fears the U.S. president may give up engaging the reclusive North personally, returning to the old tactic of negotiations by officials to denuclearize the North.
"President Moon's U.S. visit this time is expected to be a chance to seek specific ways to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and establish permanent peace while maintaining the top-down approach," Kim Hyun-chong, a security adviser to Moon and deputy director of the National Security Office, said earlier. He was referring to an approach in which the leaders of the two Koreas and the United States are personally involved in denuclearization talks.
The latest denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, though currently stalled, began after Moon held a historic inter-Korean summit with Kim in April 2018. The two leaders of the divided Koreas met again a month later, partly prompting the holding of the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in June.
The stall apparently comes from what Seoul officials have called decades of confrontation and mistrust between Washington and Pyongyang.
The U.S. president remains reluctant to put his faith in North Korea which has infamously retracted its denuclearization commitments over and over refusing to remove any sanctions currently placed on the North until the country fully denuclearizes.
Pyongyang, on the other hand, insists each of its denuclearization steps should be complemented by rewards, including sanctions relief.
Moon has stressed the need to keep the denuclearization process moving forward with what he and his officials have called "good enough deals."
Moon's talks with Trump in the day will follow his meetings with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who are said to be key players in the North Korean denuclearization talks.
The South Korean president is also set to meet National Security Adviser John Bolton before departing for home later in the day.
Source: Yonhap news Agency