A surprise meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in occurred Saturday on the North Korean side of the shared inter-Korean area of Panmunjom. Now, according to a statement from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Sunday, a U.S. delegation “is in ongoing talks with North Korean officials at Panmunjom,” too.
In the Oval Office Saturday, President Trump said preparations for a summit with Kim Jong Un were underway, and going well. “A lot of people are working on it. It’s moving along very nicely. We’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn’t changed. And it’s moving along pretty well, so we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Nauert’s statement Sunday confirms these intentions: “We continue to prepare for a meeting between the President and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” she says.
A team led by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin is scheduled to be in Singapore this weekend, meeting with North Korean officials to plan for the June 12 summit. The White House National Security Council tells NPR’s Scott Horsley that the U.S. delegation in Panmunjom is distinct from the team led by Hagin.
On Thursday, Trump called off the June 12 summit with Kim, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from North Korea as the reason why the meeting would be inappropriate to hold. But less than 24 hours later, Trump said the June 12 meeting would still be possible. There has yet to be an official announcement about whether the summit is on.
According to reporting from NPR’s Elise Hu, the Saturday meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas happened on Kim’s request. In a press conference Sunday morning, Moon weighed in on Kim’s feelings about negotiations, saying that “what’s uncertain for [Kim] is not his intentions for denuclearization, but Washington’s stance in hostile relations with North Korea, and whether Washington can really secure and guarantee his regime.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst on the Koreas, tells NPR’s Elise Hu that the U.S. and North Korea still are not aligned on a definition of denuclearization. In his Sunday press conference, Moon said that the meaning of denuclearization was a question the U.S. and North Korea needed to decide without South Korea’s help.