Moon and Trump agree to meet at United Nations

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Moon and Trump agree to meet at United Nations

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a summit later this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the White House announced on Tuesday.

The announcement came on the eve of a trip to Pyongyang by Moon’s special envoy, Chung Eui-yong, the Blue House national security adviser, on Wednesday. Ahead of the delegation’s visit, Moon and Trump spoke over the phone for 50 minutes on Tuesday evening, the two leaders’ first phone conversation since the North-U.S. summit on June 12 in Singapore.

“They agreed to meet later this month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly opens on Sept. 18, but Sanders did not specify the date of the Moon-Trump summit.

In their phone conversation, Sanders said the two leaders “discussed the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula, including our ongoing efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization [FFVD] of North Korea,” as agreed upon by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his summit with Trump. Moon further briefed Trump on the special envoy’s trip to Pyongyang, she added.

While the White House referred to FFVD - as opposed to the more common “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” or CVID - Sanders did not mention enforcement of sanctions on the North despite Washington dialing up the pressure on the regime amid a recent impasse in denuclearization talks.

The White House and Blue House slightly differed in their language on the summit in New York, with Seoul saying that they were “reviewing” a meeting between Moon and Trump, while Washington said the leaders already “agreed” to it.

Kim Eui-kyeom, the Blue House spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday that the two leaders agreed to “review meeting in person at the UN General Assembly to hold in-depth discussions on the Korean Peninsula issue and future strategies and cooperative measures.”

If anything, the statements confirmed that both leaders would be attending the UN General Assembly. Moon has been holding off on announcing whether he will attend the Assembly, which some interpreted as a move to see if North Korea’s Kim will end up going to New York. Such a visit would be a key diplomatic step.

The Blue House spokesman said that Moon and Trump in their phone call “frankly exchanged views” on denuclearization talks, an upcoming summit between Moon and Kim, progress in inter-Korean relations and the situation on the peninsula.

The spokesman added that Moon briefed Trump “in detail that the special envoy was dispatched to prepare for the inter-Korean summit and discuss ways to achieve permanent peace through denuclearization.”

Moon emphasized that “this was an important time for the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula and that this goes in hand with complete denuclearization,” adding that “improvement of South-North relations and easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula” will contribute to this process.

Trump in turn told Moon that he “sincerely hoped for a good outcome” from the special envoy’s visit to Pyongyang and expected to be informed of the results. He further relayed sincere hopes for successful results from the Moon-Kim summit later this month, according to the Blue House.

On the different language between the White House and Blue House, Kim Eui-kyeom later told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday that, “The two leaders did discuss meeting at the UN. Because I wasn’t sure [when the Blue House statement was released] whether they had made a commitment, I used the phrase ‘reviewing.’ But it seems that the White House understood this as a confirmed fact.”

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