North’s media: Kim vows nuclear-free Korea amid standoff

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula amid a growing standoff with the United States, his state-controlled media reported Thursday after a South Korean delegation met him to set up an inter-Korean summit.

The statement from the Korean Central News Agency wasn’t new information — Kim has repeatedly declared similar intentions before — but allows hopes to rise that diplomacy can get back on track after the recriminations that followed Kim’s meeting in June with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore. The impasse between North Korea and the United States, with neither side seemingly willing to make any substantive move, has generated widespread skepticism over Trump’s claims that Kim is intent on dismantling his nuclear weapons program.

The South Korean envoys who met Kim on Wednesday finalized the dates for a summit later this month between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the driving force behind the current diplomacy. Moon is seen as eager to keep the nuclear talks alive in part so that he can advance his ambitious engagement with the North, which would need U.S. backing to succeed. The date of the talks, which will come on the eve of a gathering of world leaders at the U.N. at the end of September, was to be released later Thursday.

Kim was paraphrased in the statement by his propaganda specialists as saying that it was “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.”

KCNA said Kim and the South Korean envoys reached a “satisfactory agreement” over his planned summit with Moon.

Moon, who discussed his plans with President Donald Trump by telephone on Tuesday, said his envoys had a crucial task that could determine the prospects for lasting peace.

While pushing ahead with summits and inter-Korean engagement, Seoul is trying to persuade Washington and Pyongyang to proceed with peace and denuclearization processes at the same time so they can overcome a growing dispute over the sequencing of the diplomacy.

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