SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed their hopes for a U.S.-North Korea summit at a previously unannounced meeting Saturday, South Korean officials announced.
The two leaders met for two hours Saturday and “frankly” discussed how to make the U.S.-North Korea summit a success, the presidential Blue House said. President Trump canceled his meeting with Kim on Thursday, though he later said both sides are “having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating” it, leaving the door open for further negotiation.
This came after several roller-coaster days in which Trump canceled the summit, set for June 12 in Singapore. The North Korean regime has said Kim is ready to talk to Trump “at any time.”
Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announced Saturday morning that a White House advance team, led by deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, still plans to travel to Singapore to make arrangements for the summit between Trump and Kim.
“The White House pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place,” Sanders said in a statement.
Moon and Kim met at Panmunjom, the truce village in the demilitarized zone and the site of their first meeting in April. The two met on the northern side of the line.
As a part of the rapprochement in advance of their April meeting, the two sides set up a direct phone line to improve communications and de-escalate any potential problems with direct dialogue.
However, on Saturday, the two leaders spoke face to face.
The Blue House’s abrupt announcement of the two leaders’ meeting Saturday stood in stark contrast to the highly choreographed summit in April.
At Saturday’s meeting, the two leaders also discussed a successful implementation of the inter-Korean “Panmunjom Declaration.” The two signed the three-page agreement at their earlier meeting, stating that “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” officials said Saturday.
Moon is scheduled to announce more details of the meeting Sunday.
Moon was blindsided by Trump’s decision to abruptly announce he was canceling the summit, less a day after returning from meeting in the Oval Office designed to keep the momentum in the diplomatic effort.
But the South Korean president seems to be tackling the latest difficulties with new resolve.
“Moon Jae-in is acting decisively to keep his people safe from war,” said Adam Mount, a nuclear expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “The U.S. summit should have this objective, but Moon will fall back on the Panmunjom process if necessary,” Mount said, referring to the inter-Korean agreement signed April 27.
South Korea and the United States should work together to stop Kim from separating the diplomatic tracks and being able to “triangulate between the allies,” Mount said. “It gives him added leverage over both. It is critical the alliance maintains a joint position on negotiations.”
On Saturday, the North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong awaited Moon’s motorcade on the north side of the demilitarized zone, according to video clips of Moon’s arrival released by the Blue House.
Once he arrived, he shook hands with Kim Yo Jong and walked down a red carpet as members of the North Korean military saluted. Moon then walked inside and shook hands with Kim Jong Un and posed for a photo in front of a large landscape painting, video clips show.
Moon and Kim were joined by South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon, who served as presidential envoy to North Korea, and Kim Yong Chol, senior North Korean official in charge of relations with South Korea, video clips show.
Kim and Moon ended the meeting in an embrace.
Anna Fifield and Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Seung Min Kim in Washington contributed to this report.