South Korean Leader Urges ‘Bold Decisions’ on North’s Denuclearization

SEOUL, South Korea — As President Trump considers a second summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea called Tuesday for both leaders to make “bold decisions” that will keep the process of North Korean denuclearization moving forward.

The White House revealed on Monday that Mr. Trump had received a letter from Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, asking for a second meeting to follow up on their summit in June. It was Mr. Kim’s fourth letter to Mr. Trump this year, as the two leaders appeared to cultivate personal ties unthinkable last year, when they exchanged personal insults and nuclear threats.

The White House said it was already looking at scheduling a second summit.

“It was a very warm, very positive letter,” Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said during a White House briefing. “The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the president, which we are open to and are already in the process of coordinating.”

The news was an encouraging signal for Mr. Moon, who has called on Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim to resuscitate the stalled dialogue between their governments. Mr. Moon and many South Koreans hope that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim will use their personal chemistry to end the North’s nuclear weapons program and bring lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula.

“If we are to move up to a higher level and realize the dismantlement of the nuclear assets owned by North Korea, it requires big ideas and bold decisions from the leaders of the North and the United States,” Mr. Moon said during a cabinet meeting in Seoul on Tuesday.

“North Korea must carry out its nuclear dismantlement, and the United States must take a corresponding measure to create the environment to make it possible,” he added.

When Mr. Kim met with Mr. Trump in June in Singapore, he committed to working toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in exchange for new relations and security guarantees from Washington. But the commitment lacked specifics, and talks between both sides have since stalled over how to carry out the deal.

When Mr. Moon’s special envoys met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last week, he said he was willing to denuclearize before Mr. Trump’s term ends in early 2021. He reiterated, however, that his country would do so only in phases to secure “simultaneous” reciprocal measures from Washington.

North Korea insists that it has done enough so far: This year, it has suspended nuclear and missile tests, dismantled its nuclear and rocket engine testing sites and returned the remains of some American servicemen killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. It wants the United States to reciprocate by making a joint declaration to end the Korean War, in which hostilities were halted by an armistice.

But Washington has been insisting that North Korea first take more significant steps toward denuclearization, such as submitting a full inventory of its nuclear weapons and fissile materials, before being rewarded.

With his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Moon appeared to propose that the North and the United States engage in a give-and-take exchange to help break the impasse. But such a suggestion has not sat well with hard-liners in Washington, including Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who are deeply skeptical of the North’s stated willingness to denuclearize.

”President Trump can’t make the North Koreans walk through the door he’s holding open,” Mr. Bolton said Monday. “They’re the ones that have to take the steps to denuclearize, and that’s what we’re waiting for.”

Mr. Moon said Tuesday that he had been asked by both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim to play a mediator’s role to help revive their stalled diplomacy. Mr. Moon is set to visit Pyongyang on Sept. 18 for his third summit meeting with Mr. Kim.

Mr. Moon was encouraged by North Korea’s decision not to display its intercontinental ballistic missiles during its Foundation Day military parade last weekend. Such a display could have soured efforts to revive dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

With the mood for dialogue improving, the two Koreas planned to hold military talks on Thursday and were also pushing to open a liaison office in the North Korean town of Kaesong on Friday, South Korean officials said Tuesday.

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