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DMZ meeting not a ‘summit’: U.S.

July 11,2019
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that the latest meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was not a “summit” or a “negotiation,” effectively undercutting the 50-minute conversation shared between the two leaders at the peace village of Panmunjom in late June.

Neither South Korea nor the North has officially referred to the meeting as a third summit. President Moon Jae-in called it a “Panmunjom meeting” last week during a cabinet meeting and North Korea’s state media called it a “historic meeting” in its news reports.

The Trump administration’s public denial that the meeting was a summit came Tuesday as Morgan Ortagus, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, was taking questions from reporters during a press briefing in Washington.

When asked whether Washington is keeping contacts with Pyongyang, Ortagus replied, “Obviously, as we’ve said every time we talk about North Korea, that the contacts and the discussions are ongoing. As you saw just a couple of weeks ago, it was very public. They’re not normally that public […] It wasn’t a summit, it wasn’t a negotiation; it was a meeting of two leaders.”

A South Korean former high-level government official said Pyongyang and Washington are probably refusing to call the meeting a third summit in order to relieve their leaders of responsibility from the comments they made in Panmunjom. The fact that a summit is usually preceded by several rounds of working-level discussions, which set out the summit’s agenda in advance, could be another reason why the countries aren’t calling it a third summit, the source pointed out.

“Following the latest Trump-Kim meeting,” said Jeon Hyun-joon, vice chairman of the board of directors at the Korea Peace Forum, a think tank in Seoul, “North Korea could have focused on restoring Chairman Kim Jong-un’s tarnished reputation after his second summit with the U.S. president fell apart, by claiming Trump bent his will” in coming to Panmunjom to meet Kim.

Jeon predicted Washington is calling it a meeting, instead of a summit, to stress that Trump was keeping America safe while continuously discussing with Kim without being constrained to the actual content of the talks.

North Korea has never publicly referred to the meeting as a summit either, unlike the first and second Trump-Kim summits. After the first summit between the leaders in Singapore on June 12, 2018, North Korean media called the event a “historic first DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks,” using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Following the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on Feb. 28, the North’s media referred to the summit as the “secondary summit talks.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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