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Moon, Trump reaffirm NK denuclearization resolve

NEW YORK -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed during their summit in New York on Monday on the need to obtain results in North Korean denuclearization talks, Cheong Wa Dae said. However, the two leaders did not discuss the security guarantees that Pyongyang is demanding or broach Trump’s “new method” of handling North Korean issues.

Seoul’s presidential office also said Moon and Trump had discussed the importance of the South Korea-US alliance to Northeast Asia and ways to advance it further.

“The two leaders reaffirmed that Korea-US alliance is the core pillar of peace and security in Northeast Asia,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung said.

She added that Moon and Trump had positively assessed North Korea’s show of willingness to resume talks, and had discussed in detail ways to obtain results in the working-level talks between the US and North Korea.

Despite this, the matter of Trump’s “new method,” the details of which could prove critical in negotiations with Pyongyang, was left untouched.

The idea of a “new method” of dealing with North Korea was first mentioned by Trump on Thursday.

Although Trump did not provide any details, the comment was welcomed by Pyongyang, which had demanded that the US approach the talks with a “new calculation method.”

Changes to the current sanctions regime and security guarantees, key elements of North Korea’s demands, appear unlikely. Although Cheong Wa Dae declined to elaborate, a top presidential aide said the matter had not been discussed in detail but that it had been mentioned that the sanctions should remain in place. 

President Moon Jae-in (left) talks with US President Donald Trump during their summit at a New York hotel on Monday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (left) talks with US President Donald Trump during their summit at a New York hotel on Monday. (Yonhap)

Instead, the two leaders reaffirmed the often-repeated approach of “providing a bright future after denuclearization,” according to the Cheong Wa Dae official.

Aside from North Korea, Moon and Trump discussed other bilateral and regional issues, including defense cost-sharing negotiations, which kicked off Tuesday (Seoul time).

The US is said to be pushing for a significant increase in Seoul’s share, which currently stands at about $861 million.

The discussions, however, did not go beyond Moon and Trump restating their positions.

“President Moon stressed fair and reasonable sharing. (Moon) also gave detailed account of our government’s contributions to US Forces Korea’s stationing, such as continuous increase in (South Korea’s share of) defense costs, increasing purchase of US weapons and defense budget,” the official said.

Going into the meeting, Trump again touted his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and said he was planning no further action against the regime.

“I’m not considering actions. We’re getting along very well with North Korea. I have a good relationship with Kim Jong-un. And we’re not considering actions at all. There’s no reason for actions,” Trump said.

The US president also repeated his stance on North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles, saying such weapons were not part of the deal between the US and North Korea.

“We didn’t have an agreement on short-range missiles. A lot of people and a lot of countries test short-range missiles. There is nothing spectacular about that,” Trump said.

Despite North Korea’s recent series of short-range ballistic missile tests, which the UN considers a violation of its resolutions, Trump has repeatedly indicated that he is unfazed by the projectiles.

In addressing the media before the closed-door meeting, Trump hinted that trade issues were also on the table between Seoul and Washington.

Trump said the two countries were working on “tremendous trade deals,” while touting revisions to the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement.

“We are working on tremendous trade deals. We -- as you know, we’ve completed a trade deal, and that’s working out very well for both countries,” he said.

But Trump did not elaborate on the deals, saying simply that the two sides “intend to do some additional things on trade.”

By Choi He-suk
Korea Herald correspondent