|President Moon Jae-in speaks at the start of a weekly meeting with senior presidential secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. Moon's right is National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong. Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
President Moon Jae-in offered Monday to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "at any time and any place," and if this is accepted, he is expected to send a special envoy to Pyongyang to discuss the agenda for what would be their fourth meeting.
The offer came after Moon's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. last week, in an effort to find a breakthrough in the stalled nuclear talks between the North and the United States.
"I believe the time has come to push for an inter-Korean summit," Moon said during a meeting with senior aides at Cheong Wa Dae.
"I want to discuss with Kim ways to make progress beyond the two previous North Korea-U.S. summits without restrictions on time and venue."
Moon also suggested a three-way meeting with Kim and Trump, saying the U.S. leader reacted positively to the idea.
The North Korean leader said last week he will meet U.S. President Donald Trump again, but only if Washington brings the "right attitude." Trump later tweeted praise of Kim and welcome the idea of a new summit.
Moon said last week's summit with Trump was an opportunity to "eliminate uncertainty" following the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump, and was part of the process to revive their dialogue.
"I shared lots of thoughts on the North Korea issue with senior officials within the Trump administration and they reaffirmed their determination to continue nuclear diplomacy to bring a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Specifically, Trump has shown his willingness for another inter-Korean summit and shared his thoughts on the effectiveness of top-down nuclear diplomacy," Moon said.
Moon said the so-called "Korea Peace Process" is now preparing steps that can bring substantial results at the next-level. "North Korean leader Kim said he is open to a third summit with Trump and for a restart of nuclear talks with the United States."
In a speech last week to the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim outlined his view on the regime's denuclearization talks, and bolstered his diplomatic lineup amid stalemated negotiations with the U.S.
Addressing the U.S.-South Korea relationship, Kim argued that Washington was impeding progress on the peninsula with its sanctions, forcing South Korea to postpone projects that would unite the Koreas.
Kim said he was faced with the choice of either "improving the inter-Korean ties or going back to the past when ties plunged into a catastrophe with the danger of a war increasing."
"Kim made it clear that the two Koreas should stand together for a permanent peace on the peninsula by adhering to core agreements that we agreed to in Pyongyang and Panmunjeom. Seoul is ready to embrace the risks and difficulties we may encounter in the long-elusive peace process," Moon said, adding he will try to use a new inter-Korean summit to bring bigger opportunities and outcomes.
But the President didn't mention when he would send the special envoy for the necessary groundwork. Moon plans to visit three central Asian countries from April 16, leaving National Security Council chief Chung Eui-young at home. This has raised speculation that he or National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon may be appointed as the special envoy.
"Incremental denuclearization" is what North Korea has traditionally wanted, according to Cheong Wa Dae sources. In this framework, Washington offers reciprocal steps, such as limited easing of economic sanctions, for the North's denuclearization steps such as the dismantlement of hidden and undeclared nuclear testing sites beyond its major Yongbyon nuclear facility.