Trump (R) and Moon at the Oval Office of the White House on April 11 [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
United States President Donald Trump will travel to South Korea next month for talks on the North Korean nuclear programme, the White House has said, in a visit that will take place months after a failed summit with North Korea‘s leader in Vietnam.
The White House said in a statement on Wednesday that Trump would meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in conjunction with his trip to Japan to attend a G20 summit in Osaka on June 28-29.
“President Trump and President Moon will continue their close coordination on efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearisation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the statement said, using North Korea’s official name.
It will be the second meeting between Trump and Moon since the collapse of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February after they failed to reach a deal on denuclearisation.
Moon, who has long backed engagement with the nuclear-armed North, brokered the talks process between Trump and Kim, which led to their first landmark summit in Singapore last June.
But security allies Seoul and Washington have at times appeared to diverge on their approach to Pyongyang, and South Korea‘s simultaneous announcement of Trump’s upcoming visit was noticeably different in its phrasing.
A statement issued by the South’s presidential office said the two leaders would discuss “establishing a lasting peace regime through the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” – rather than the North specifically.
The “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” was the term used in the joint statement signed by Kim and Trump after their summit in Singapore.
But it is a phrase open to wide interpretation, and the process has become bogged down as the two sides disagree over what it means.
In the past, Pyongyang has argued it must include the removal of Washington’s nuclear umbrella over the South and the 28,500 US troops stationed in the country.
When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the North’s traditional ally Russia this week, Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told him: “The leadership of DPRK expects certain guarantees of security of their country reciprocated by denuclearisation, and that denuclearisation should be expanded over the whole of the Korean Peninsula.”
The Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim broke up after the pair failed to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programmes.
Since then, Moon has tried to salvage diplomacy between Trump and Kim and flew to Washington last month for a brief meeting with the US president.
His attempts have so far proved futile, with Pyongyang raising the pressure earlier this month week by launching short-range missiles in its first such test since November 2017.
North Korea has repeatedly warned that it could take a different approach if Washington did not change its stance on sanctions by the end of this year.