South Korean President Urges Direct Talks Between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Collage of Trump, Moon, and Kim
AFP/AP

South Korean President Moon Jae-in encouraged U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Friday to speak directly and resolve the diplomatic standoff that culminated with President Trump’s canceling his June 12 summit with Kim.

“Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed,” said Moon after a late-night meeting with top ministers at the presidential residence.

“It may be difficult to resolve the sensitive and difficult diplomatic issues through such methods of communication currently being employed,” Moon reflected, suggesting “more direct and close dialogue between leaders” instead.

Moon himself has a direct hotline to Kim, established in advance of his summit with Kim in April, but the South Korean presidential office said there are currently no plans for Moon to use it.

President Moon said he was “embarrassed” by the apparent collapse of the U.S.-North Korea summit and found the cancellation “regrettable.”

Nikkei Asian Review reports South Korean opposition leaders were swift to criticize Moon’s administration for being “drunk with baseless optimism and rosy fantasy” over the summit, as Liberty Korea Party floor leader Kim Sung-tae put it.

“The North Korean issue has been the only area in which the Moon government has been successful. As that has now turned out to be a failure, it may face a backlash from conservative voters, who have been keeping their silence,” predicted political science Professor Shin Yul of Myongji University.

“The problem is that the Blue House knew nothing about Trump’s cancellation. This shows the South Korea-U.S. alliance is at a very low ebb,” Shin added, touching on the odd detail that Moon was completely blindsided by Trump’s cancellation letter even though he was on his way home from a White House meeting when Trump sent it.

The Straits Times suggests that Moon might have irked the Trump administration by overselling North Korea’s willingness to participate in meaningful negotiations. It was a development obscured by the furor over Trump’s cancellation letter, but the North Koreans are the ones who effectively scuttled the summit by failing to appear for meetings with American officials and refusing to return their messages.

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