Moon Heads to White House in Attempt to End North Korea Stalemate

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who played peacemaker by bringing the North Korean regime to talks with his U.S. ally, now faces the challenge of persuading both sides to make concessions he argues can help get Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear arsenal, Wall Street Journal reported.

President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader couldn’t agree over certain issues in their nuclear talks in Hanoi in February, with the U.S. demanding disarmament and North Korea demanding economic incentives.

When Moon Jae-in meets Trump at the White House on Thursday, at issue will be whether the South Korean leader can push forward the detente that brought the peninsula back from the brink of war, the Journal writes.

Moon’s objective, in his third official visit to Washington, will be establishing a road map for the U.S. and North Korea, creating an avenue for a resumption of denuclearization talks, a senior South Korean national-security official said Tuesday. As part of that effort, the Moon administration plans to invite Trump to visit Seoul by the end of June, the official said.

Should Moon fail to secure a commitment from Trump on the next steps of nuclear diplomacy, he could also lose traction with Kim. A Pyongyang-controlled website this month criticized the Moon administration for failing to deliver results on inter-Korean cooperation and “openly succumbing to the pressure of the U.S. and conservative forces,” the Journal adds.

The U.S. and South Korea have clashed over how best to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program—though there have been recent indications that Seoul is softening its line.

One point has been Seoul’s calls for the U.S. to relax sanctions, a step that would allow the two Koreas to proceed with joint economic projects that they have championed as a way to improve relations.

The U.S., though open to reviving negotiations, is keeping economic sanctions in place until Pyongyang takes verifiable steps to relinquish its arsenal. “Our administration’s policy is incredibly clear,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a recent interview with CBS This Morning.

The Moon administration has recently toned down its insistence on the need to forge ahead with joint business ventures with the North, which include a manufacturing operation and a tourism zone. The inter-Korean projects weren’t discussed in U.S.-South Korea preparatory talks in Washington last week, a senior South Korean official said, adding the allies agree on the “final destination, end state and the road map” for North Korean policy.

The Journal also points out that Washington and Pyongyang left the Vietnam summit without a deal in large part because the specifics weren’t hashed out in working-level talks before the two leaders showed up in Hanoi. Moon’s trip to Washington aims to help set in motion next steps that could help facilitate agreements down the line.

Meanwhile, North Korea has announced that the Central Committee of its ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was set to hold a meeting Wednesday to discuss and decide what it called a “new orientation”, ahead of Moon’s visit to the White House, the Japan Times writes.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch Wednesday morning that the powerful decision-making body would “discuss and decide the new orientation and ways of struggle in line with the need of the prevailing revolutionary situation.”

At last year’s meeting, Kim Jong-un announced that his country no longer needed to test nuclear weapons or longer-range missiles, would close its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and was shifting its primary focus to its tattered economy.

In a separate report Wednesday, KCNA said that an enlarged meeting of the WPK’s politburo had been held a day earlier, and that Kim had “urged the need for leading officials to fully display a high sense of responsibility and creativity, and the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and fortitude … under the prevailing tense situation and thus follow through on the new strategic line of the Party.”

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