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North Korea Crisis

Seoul considers third Moon-Kim summit this summer

South Korea looks for swift and concrete steps toward full denuclearization

Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in engages in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their summit on May 26.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- South Korea is considering hosting another summit with North Korea during the summer to press Pyongyang on concrete steps toward full denuclearization, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Wednesday.

Kang said President Moon Jae-in could meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an earlier date than the meeting planned for Pyongyang in the autumn. Moon and Kim had their first meeting at the border village of Panmunjom in April, followed by a surprise two-hour meeting in May.

"Even before Pyongyang in the autumn, there could be another casual summit. The possibility is high," Kang said at a news conference.

She made the comments as Kim was holding his third summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in as many months. One June 12, the North Korean leader had a historic meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.

Kim's new-found diplomatic energy is largely behind the unprecedented flurry of summits in the region. Moon will also visit Russia later this week for his third meeting with President Vladimir Putin, seeking support for the denuclearization process from another key player.

Kang emphasized the importance of concrete North Korean actions toward complete denuclearization, suggesting the two leaders would discuss the matter at a third summit.

She said Seoul expects North Korea to take swift action toward denuclearization following the commitments made at the Trump-Kim meeting and two inter-Korean summits.

"We are expecting to see concrete action by North Korea to live up to its commitment to complete denuclearization in return for guarantees of its security and joint efforts to establish a lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula," Kang said. "We expect actions to realize denuclearization and peace to proceed expeditiously."

She said complete denuclearization means the dismantling all of nuclear weapons, materials, facilities and locations, including the Yongbyon complex, where the North's largest nuclear facilities are located.

Kang said sanctions will remain in place until South Korea is assured complete denuclearization has been achieved.

North Korea blew up its nuclear test site in the northeastern mountainous area of Punggye-ri in May, inviting journalists from five countries to watch. But, experts say that was merely a symbolic gesture, since the country had already carried out six successful nuclear tests. Trump said Kim promised at the Singapore summit to dismantle its missile engine test site, but no such action has been taken yet.

Kang -- South Korea's first female foreign minister -- touted the country's role as mediator in U.S.-North Korea talks, saying patience and consistency had paid off.

"Despite the daily ups and downs, despite criticism that this is too naive and unrealistic, we have stayed on course. I think [we] convinced North Korea that they can change their calculations."

She said the recent Pyeongchang Olympics played a role in encouraging North Korea to engage in diplomacy.

But Kang, a former senior policy adviser at the United Nations, said time would be required for a peace treaty to be signed to officially end the Korean War. She said that because negotiations would be so drawn out, it was important to get started as soon as possible.

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