SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s president says that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated “his intentions to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula” during a surprise meeting in the Demilitarized Zone on Saturday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim met Saturday hours after President Donald Trump suggested his June 12 summit with Kim may still go ahead, after Trump this week canceled the proposed meeting.
“Chairman Kim made clear once again his intentions to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula as he did in the Panmunjeom Declaration,” President Moon said in a statement Sunday local time, according to a NBC News translation.
Kim and Moon reportedly discussed the denuclearization agreement the two leaders signed when they first met at the border last month, according to a statement released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House, as well as the potential summit with Trump.
Saturday’s surprise talks between the rival Koreas came hours after Trump told reporters that the planned June 12 summit in Singapore, which he abruptly canceled on Thursday, might still be salvaged.
Trump said Saturday during a meeting at the Oval Office at which he welcomed home an American missionary and his wife freed by Venezuela that “we’re doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea,” and that “I think there’s a lot of goodwill.”
“It’s moving along very nicely, so we’re looking at June 12th in Singapore; that hasn’t changed,” Trump said. “And it’s moving along pretty well. So we’ll see what happens.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday a White House team will depart for Singapore as scheduled “in order to prepare should the summit take place.”
We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
Moon told reporters after Sunday’s briefing that “The real issue for the Chairman Kim is not his firm determination for the complete denuclearization. Chairman Kim is worried about whether he can trust that the U.S. will end the policy of hostility and guarantee the stability of his regime” after denuclearization.
Moon said the Trump administration has indicated the United States is willing to possibly offer economic assistance after denuclearization. “I have delivered what each party has in mind and am now urging the both parties to confirm each other’s posture directly,” Moon said.
Kim and Moon met for two hours on the North Korean side of the truce village Panmunjom between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time (2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. ET), according to the Blue House, which released pictures of the two leaders embracing.
“The two leaders exchanged views frankly in order to make the U.S.-N.K. summit talks happen successfully and to carry out the 4.27 Panmunjeom Declaration,” said Yoon Young Chan, a presidential spokesman, referring to the agreement signed after last month’s historic talks.
North Korean state-run media KCNA said in its own statement about the Saturday meeting that Kim and Moon expressed “their stand to make joint efforts for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Last month’s summit marked the first meeting between North and South Korean leaders in a decade. During the talks Kim and Moon pledged “no more war,” as well as the common goal of the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
The detente on the Korean Peninsula came as the North Korean leader engaged with Trump over their nuclear arsenal. After a year of fiery rhetoric the two leaders agreed to meet in Singapore next month in what would be a historic summit.
But the White House stunned the world Thursday by canceling the meeting 18 days before it was due to take place and by warning that the U.S. military is prepared to act.
Trump blamed the cancellation on the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement by the North Koreans. The president appeared to be referring to a statement by Pyongyang on Thursday that warned of a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” with the United States.
The North Koreans were reacting to comments by Vice President Mike Pence suggesting that the rogue state could face a fate similar to that of Libya, where former leader Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed after agreeing to dispose of his nuclear weapons.
North Korea called the vice president a “political dummy” for the remark.
However, Pyongyang said its rhetoric was tit-for-tat and that they were still willing to “sit down any time and in any way to solve the problem.”
Stella Kim reported from Seoul and Saphora Smith reported from London.