|President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during an expanded summit with their, at Cheong Wa Dae in November 2017. Yonhap|
Allies to discuss measures to ease tension
By Lee Min-hyung
President Moon Jae-in will discuss ways to revive dialogue with North Korea during a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump later next month in Seoul, Cheong Wa Dae said Thursday.
"The two leaders will talk about measures to build a permanent peace here through complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Ko Min-jung told reporters in a media briefing.
The exact timeline for Trump's visit to the South has yet to be decided, with both sides agreeing to confirm a detailed summit schedule after negotiations through diplomatic channels, according to the presidential office.
Expectations are Trump will come to South Korea before or after the G-20 summit in Osaka, which lasts for two days from June 28. The U.S. president will have a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and engage in a series of diplomatic meetings there.
Trump's trip to Seoul comes amid renewed tension on the peninsula, with North Korea showing signs of resuming its military provocations following the failed Hanoi summit between Trump and its leader Kim Jong-un last February.
Pyongyang expressed its willingness for the denuclearization of the peninsula last year and had refrained from staging any military provocations until recently.
But the North resumed its missile tests this month, in an apparent show of force amid the ongoing nuclear disarmament deadlock with the U.S. On May 9, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched the test-firing of short-range missiles from the country's eastern coast.
Seoul and Washington, however, did not react sensitively to the provocations, and instead, agreed to cooperate in bringing Pyongyang back to negotiations.
Following the latest missile tests, Trump said he did not consider the move a breach of trust, noting the short-range missiles were "very standard stuff."
Even if the allies are willing to resume talks with the North, skepticism is growing over the latter's sincerity in its pledge for denuclearization.
In addition, Washington and Pyongyang seem unlikely to find a middle ground in their nuclear disarmament talks in the near future, as they remain poles apart in approaches to "complete denuclearization" of the peninsula.
About a month before Trump's planned visit to Seoul, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton will also come to the South to hold talks on countermeasures for the deadlocked nuclear dialogue.
The hawkish security advisor will likely underline his wish to sign a one-shot big deal with the North, rather than making any concessions to the North's demand for a phased approach, such as a partial lifting of sanctions in exchange for step-by-step denuclearization.
He will also call on the South to thoroughly comply with the international sanctions imposed on the North, according to experts.
"Bolton will stress again Seoul should continue to implement the ongoing sanctions," Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said.
"But the thing is that South Korea does not have a clear direction in carrying out nuclear-related North Korea policies," he said. "The government keeps emphasizing the need to continue dialogue with the North, but in terms of how to do so, no clear guidelines have been set."
South Korea wants to keep pushing so-called "good enough deals" with the North to resume the stalled dialogue.
The approach means Washington and Pyongyang need to keep signing agreements if they believe the previous agreement was satisfactory. Seoul thinks this is an ideal approach for complete denuclearization of the North, as it keeps Pyongyang on the dialogue track at the same time.