Kim Jong Un to host South Korea's leader starting Sept. 18

On Thursday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearize North Korea.

The envoy, Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security adviser, met with Kim in Pyongyang on Wednesday in hopes of breaking the deadlock in the talks between the North and the United States over dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons program.

On Thursday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearize North Korea. But it fell short of clarifying whether Kim was ready to take major steps toward denuclearizing his country, such as submitting a full inventory of nuclear weapons and fissile materials, that the Trump administration has insisted on.

“Noting that it is our fixed stance and his will to completely remove the danger of armed conflict and horror of war from the Korean Peninsula and turn it into the cradle of peace without nuclear weapons and free from nuclear threat, he said that the North and the South should further their efforts to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the North Korean news agency said, referring to Kim.

When Kim met with President Donald Trump on June 12, the leaders pledged to establish “new” relations and build “a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula, while Kim agreed to “work toward complete denuclearization.”

But their diplomats’ negotiations have since stalled over differences on how to carry out that vaguely worded agreement. Trump, who had repeatedly boasted that he largely resolved the North Korean nuclear crisis, abruptly canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned visit to Pyongyang last week, citing a lack of progress in the denuclearization talks.

In an attempt to jump-start the stalled talks, the countries agreed that Kim and South Korea’s leader, Moon Jae-in, would hold a summit this month in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. It would be the third meeting between the leaders.

In remarks reported by the North Korean news agency, Kim offered few clues on how he would achieve the denuclearization of the peninsula, except indicating that his idea included removal of all nuclear weapons.

But Kim also repeated his country’s long-standing demand that denuclearization must also include the removal of any “nuclear threat,” a phrase the North often uses to refer to U.S. military exercises with South Korea and in the region.

When Chung met with the North’s leader, his entourage included Suh Hoon, the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.

Chung and Suh helped facilitate some of the key recent developments in the diplomacy surrounding the North and its nuclear arms. During their prior trip to Pyongyang, which took place in March, they dined with Kim and laid the groundwork for his first meeting with Moon, which took place in April at the border village of Panmunjom.

The South Korean officials later visited Trump at the White House, where they relayed Kim’s proposal for a meeting between the leaders — which Trump accepted on the spot.

But the recent cancellation of Pompeo’s visit was a setback for Moon, whose hopes for improving the inter-Korean relationship could be jeopardized by a deadlock between Pyongyang and Washington.

Moon had to delay the opening of a liaison office in the North after Pompeo’s trip was canceled. Last month, U.S. military commanders in Seoul stopped South Korea’s plan to send a train across the inter-Korean border and run it on a North Korean railway, to test the rails’ condition.

Moon has promised to help modernize the North’s railways and roads as part of his engagement strategy, but Washington is wary of South Korea giving the North too much before it has made tangible progress toward denuclearization.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Choe Sang-Hun © 2018 The New York Times

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