Moon Jae-in pledges to push for successful third Kim-Trump summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaking to a group of visiting editors from the Asia News Network, including The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez (centre). PHOTO: BLUE HOUSE

SEOUL - South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pledged to keep up his efforts to bring the United States and North Korea together to strive towards denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.

He said he would pursue further talks with his North Korean counterpart, Chairman Kim Jong Un, and do his best to push for a third summit between US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim.

Noting that Mr Kim had recently embarked on several diplomatic initiatives, such as his ongoing summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Moon said these were welcome moves, and he would push for further diplomacy and dialogue, once the North Korean leader was ready for this.

"I know that the world was disappointed with the lack of any concrete agreement at the summit in Hanoi," President Moon told a group of visiting editors from the Asia News Network, a regional grouping of 24 media organisations, who are in Seoul for their annual board meeting and celebrations to mark the group's 20th anniversary.

But, he added: "We have seen remarkable changes in the last year. Just 18 months ago, there was much tension on the peninsula and genuine concern about the outbreak of war."

"Today, military tensions have been reduced significantly," said President Moon, who was named the Asian Person of the Year last year by the ANN, in recognition of his efforts to bring the US and North Korea together to defuse the escalating war of words between the two sides.

After three summits between the South and the North as well as two Trump-Kim summits, tensions have lessened and the possibility of peace and denuclearisation through dialogue is within reach, he said.

Mr Moon made these remarks even as Mr Kim was going about his state visit in Russia, where reports say Mr Putin is expected to push for a restart of the six-party talks aimed at a peaceful resolution to North Korea's weapons programme.

Mr Kim's trip to Russia and his previous visits to China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping are seen by analysts as attempts to shore up support as he continues his personal diplomacy with Mr Moon and Mr Trump.

Pointing out that both the North Korean and US leaders have committed to continue their dialogue, Mr Moon went on to say that this offered hope that the prospects were good for another summit. South Korea, he said, would be ready for more talks, and would "strive to make this third summit a successful one".

Mr Moon, who met the editors over tea in the chandeliered meeting hall of the Blue House, the president's official residence, took questions from them after delivering prepared remarks, thanking them for the honour the ANN had bestowed on him, and also for their efforts to enhance understanding between Korea and Asean, as well as the rest of Asia.

Taking up a question on whether Mr Kim might be invited to join in the Korea-Asean summit meeting in November, he noted that this had been proposed by Indonesia President Joko Widodo and found the support of several leaders.

A decision on whether to extend such an invitation would have to be made in consultation with Asean countries, while also taking into account the prevailing circumstances on the Korean peninsula, he added.

Responding to a question on moves to improve gender equality in his country, the President said he wished he could do more.

Right now, the opposition in South Korean is stronger than the ruling party in some ways, he remarked, but said his government will continue with reforms that have been initiated, although this would require the help of the politicians and people of South Korea.

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