SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea on Saturday expressed cautious relief about the revived talks for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Trump canceling the highly-anticipated meeting before saying it’s potentially back on.
The statement by Seoul’s presidential office came hours after Trump welcomed North Korea’s conciliatory response to his Thursday letter withdrawing from the summit with Kim and said that the meeting might be getting back on track. Trump later on Saturday tweeted that the summit, if it does happen, will likely take place on June 12 in Singapore as originally planned.
“We see it as fortunate that the embers of dialogue between North Korea and the United States weren’t fully extinguished and are coming alive again,” Seoul’s presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement. “We are carefully watching the developments.”
South Korea, which brokered the talks between Washington and Pyongyang, was caught off guard by Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the summit over hostility in recent North Korean comments. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump’s decision left him “very perplexed.”
North Korea issued an unusually restrained and diplomatic response to Trump’s cancellation of the meeting, saying it’s still willing to sit for talks with the United States “at any time, (in) any format.”
Analysts say Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and also craves the international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there’s also skepticism whether Kim will ever agree to fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he likely sees as his only guarantee of survival.
Comments in North Korea’s state media indicate Kim sees any meeting with Trump as an arms control negotiation between nuclear states, rather than a process to surrender his nukes.