S. Korea sees 99.9-pct possibility for DPRK-US summit: Blue House

Kelley Robertson
May 24, 2018

But the North's snubbing of South Korea's media indicates it plans to keep up the pressure heading into the summit between leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

With North Korea threatening to walk, the White House meeting between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will provide an opportunity for the allies to confer on next steps. Pyongyang vowed not to be forced into a corner and threatened to cancel the summit if Trump insisted on "nuclear abandonment" - total disarmament.

"This is make-or-break", said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest.

But the North's abrupt sharpening of its words has raised concerns the Trump summit may prove to be a bumpy one - or that it could even be in jeopardy.

Beijing may share Pyongyang's goal of reducing the American military presence on the Korean Peninsula, but it hasn't been happy with Kim's nuclear ambitions.

In this May 9, 2018, file photo provided by the North Korean government, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea. Trump said he was displeased by China's softening of border enforcement measures against North Korea.

But while there have been some heated threats to pull out of the June 12 summit, North Korean officials have vowed to dismantle their nuclear testing facility in front of the media this week and appear to be moving forward with closing down the nuclear facility, which is the latest sign of goodwill in the Korean Peninsula. USA -based North Korea monitor 38 North has said commercial satellite images taken May 7 and May 15 shows North Korea has already done preliminary work to close the site.

The White House hasn't indicated there will be a press conference between Trump and Moon, but this will be the first time the two are able to meet in person to discuss the status of the summit between Trump and Kim, and examine what options are on the table.

That's a goal also set by previous US administrations that proved impossible to achieve and one that few observers in the South believe Pyongyang would consider now that its program is virtually complete. "What Moon is going to try to do is try to say this is just a negotiating tactic on the part of the North".

"I will guarantee his safety, yes", Trump said, if Kim agrees to complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.

"For Moon, it's mission impossible", Kazianis said.

Moon was to meet Trump in Washington later on Tuesday.

The national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in said that the summit nearly certainly will go ahead, despite signs to the contrary in recent days. It has promised to invite journalists from the US and several other countries to witness the demolition, and satellite images have shown what appear to be viewing stands being built nearby.

Skepticism about the North's intentions have mounted in recent weeks after Kim's government pulled out of planned peace talks with the South last week, objecting to long-scheduled joint military exercises between USA and South Korean forces.

"I do not worry about Bolton", said Mr Moon Chung In, a usually outspoken adviser to the South Korean president.

That's important, Schoff said, both for Trump to clarify contradictions between what he's said and what administration officials such as Bolton have said, and for Moon to directly tell Trump how serious he's taking North Korea's shift back to aggressive rhetoric. Among other things, it's afraid a failure in negotiations will "provoke more serious confrontations than before", said Cheng, including threatened military action by the USA, right on China's doorstep.

Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview Monday that the administration is still open to the planned summit with Kim.

Trump, too, has much at stake, having made nuclear diplomacy with North Korea his No. 1 foreign policy goal.

"If the USA and the South Korean authorities persist in the confrontation policy and war moves against the DPRK, oblivious of this fact, they will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences", said a commentary in the daily Minju Joson.

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