The Koreas | Security | East Asia

South Korea’s Moon Expresses Hope for Another US-North Korea Summit Meeting

The South Korean president held out hope for a new U.S.-North Korea summit.

South Korea’s Moon Expresses Hope for Another US-North Korea Summit Meeting
Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he would like to see another summit-level meeting between the United States and North Korea before the former’s presidential election later this year.

Speaking on Tuesday via video conference at a South Korea-European Union summit, Moon said that South Korea would “do its best” to facilitate such a meeting. Moon was speaking just a little over one year after the June 30, 2019, meeting between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the inter-Korean border.

“What South Korea hopes is that… efforts for dialogue between the North and the U.S. should be pushed forward once more before the U.S. presidential election,” Moon said.

“South Korea … plans to do its best to make it possible for the North and the U.S. to sit face-to-face again before the U.S. presidential election,” the South Korean president added. “I think the EU can play a big role,” he also said.

Moon, who entered office in May 2017, has been a major proponent of engagement with North Korea and of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy. In May 2018, when U.S. President Donald J. Trump suddenly canceled the first planned U.S.-North Korea summit, Moon met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to save the summit.

Moon’s statement on Tuesday came after a period of rising — and then sharply declining — inter-Korean tensions. In June, North Korea detonated conventional explosives at the inter-Korean liaison office at the city of Kaesong, along the inter-Korean border, in a rebuke to the Moon administration.

In 2018, Moon met Kim for two major summits: the April 2018 Panmunjom Summit and the September 2019 Pyongyang Summit, which also coincided with the signing of a major inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement.

“It is my firm will that the hard-earned progress and achievements in inter-Korean relations cannot be backtracked,” Moon said. “I will be patient and make efforts to sustain the momentum of dialogue between South Korea, North Korea, and the U.S.”

Despite the South Korean president’s suggestions, North Korea and the United States have not held serious diplomatic talks since last October, when they met for official working-level talks in Stockholm, Sweden,

Diplomatic progress between the two sides has been limited since the February 2019 Hanoi summit, which ended without a U.S.-North Korea agreement amid disagreements between the two sides over concessions, including sanctions relief.

Days before Moon’s remarks on Tuesday, Stephen E. Biegun, the U.S. deputy secretary of state and the Trump administration’s special envoy for North Korea during the diplomacy of 2018 and 2019, said that he believed it was possible for the two sides to “make substantial progress.”

No ongoing talks between the United States and North Korea are confirmed to be taking place, however. On June 12, on the two year anniversary of the Singapore Summit, North Korea released a statement criticizing the United States for not following through on its commitments.