SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday in an effort to ensure a high-stakes summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump takes place successfully, South Korean officials said.
The unannounced meeting is the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic flip-flops surrounding an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the two Korean leaders are trying to keep the on-again off-again summit on track.
Their two-hour talks at the Panmunjom border village came a month after they held the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade at the same venue on April 27 and declared they would work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
“The two leaders candidly exchanged views about making the North Korea-US summit a successful one and about implementing the Panmunjom Declaration,” South Korea’s presidential spokesman said in a statement. He did not confirm how the secret meeting was arranged or which side asked for it.
Moon, who returned to Seoul on Thursday morning after meeting Trump in Washington earlier this week in a bid to keep the summit on track as initially planned, for June 12 in Singapore, was due to announce details of the meeting with Kim early on Sunday.
Video and one of the photos released by the presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Kim hugging Moon and kissing him on the cheek three times as he saw Moon off after their meeting at Tongilgak, the North’s building in the truce village, which lies in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) — the 160-mile (260 km) long, 2.5-mile (4 km) wide buffer that runs along the heavily armed military border.
The previous summit was held at the southern side of the border.
They were accompanied by South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong Chol, who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs.
Video footage also showed Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, greeting Moon as he arrived at Tongilgak and shaking hands before the South Korean leader entered the building flanked by North Korean military guards.
Moon is the only South Korean leader to have met a North Korean leader twice, both times in the DMZ, a symbol of unending hostilities after the Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Former South Korean leaders Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun met with Kim Jong Un’s late father, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, respectively.
Trump hails ‘productive talks’
Trump said on Friday that Washington was having “productive talks” with Pyongyang about reinstating the June 12 meeting, just a day after cancelling it.
Politico magazine reported that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials was preparing to leave for Singapore later this weekend.
Reuters reported earlier this week the team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials. The delegation was to include White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.