South Korean reporters excluded from Punggye-ri's dismantling

May 22, 2018, 22:28
South Korean reporters excluded from Punggye-ri's dismantling

A North Korean flight carrying worldwide press set to cover the dismantlement of Punggye-ri nuclear test ground left Beijing for Wonsan on Tuesday morning without a group of South Korean reporters originally invited to attend the event.

If Kim's summit with Trump is called off or fails, that would be "a blow to Moon and his engagement strategy and to President Trump, who has credited his own pressure campaign as bringing North Korea to the table", Jannuzi said.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in was scheduled to meet Trump in Washington later on Tuesday, as US officials try to figure out whether North Korea, which has pursued nuclear and missile programs in defiance of United Nations sanctions, is serious about negotiating a deal on denuclearisation.

Either way, many in South Korea are anxious about what happens if the Singapore summit fails to meet expectations - or if it produces a denuclearisation deal that North Korea fails to adhere to.

But the two leaders are coming at that shared goal from much different political positions: While Trump's approval numbers are mired in the low 40s, Moon's approval stands at 75 percent of South Koreans, according to one poll published last week.

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"North Korea still going ahead with closing the Punggye-ri site shows its willingness to denuclearize and hold a summit with the U.S.", he said.

Moon will meet with Donald Trump Tuesday, ahead of the US president's planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month. Trump and Moon discussed North Korea in a call Saturday, ahead of their meeting this Tuesday.

North Korea has threatened to pull out of the meeting after comments by US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

But with North Korea improving its ties with China following the announcement of the Trump-Kim summit, it's possible that Kim could now back out of the summit and attempt to paint Trump as the belligerent one. After assuming power barely two months after the Libyan leader's killing, Kim made accelerating his country's nuclear and missiles advances his top priority. In his view, the North Koreans "have been pushing ahead".

North Korea's warning of a possible withdrawal from the summit is seen as an effort to test Trump's willingness to make concessions on his demands for Pyongyang's denuclearization, the US official said.

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Denuclearization was always bound to be the biggest sticking point in any talks with North Korea. "Is North Korea going to start testing again?" he asked.

"President Trump told me three days ago that he wants to end this in a win-win way", Graham said. "Make no mistake about it: America's interest here is preventing the risk that North Korea will launch a nuclear weapon into L.A. or Denver or into the very place we're sitting here this morning", Pompeo said in a TV interview from Washington. "And if we have a conflict with North Korea, they will lose it, not us", he added.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. "The Japanese are very concerned that Trump encouraged them to take a very hard line on Kim and now they feel left out there", former Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill told CBS News. "North Korea is saying things they've never said before, ' but in fact, they're saying the exact same things they've said for 27 years of negotiations". The Trump administration insists that North Korea must completely dismantle its nuclear program before getting any relief from economic sanctions.

Moon "needs to succeed with Kim Jong Un and and Donald Trump", Bush said.

"Pyongyang understands that there will be no cooperation with South Korea unless an agreement is made with the Americans", the expert continued.

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However, it remains to be seen if Trump and Moon can keep the goodwill going before the U.S.