In the latest surprise development in a week of surprises, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met to discuss follow up to their April 27 summit, and the on-again, off-again North Korea-US summit.
At their two-hour, Saturday afternoon meeting, “The two leaders exchanged candid opinions on how to implement the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and to have a successful North Korea-US summit,” South Korea’s presidential Blue House announced in a terse press note.
The two leaders held their meeting on the Northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom, inside the DMZ. Their previous summit had been held on the southern side. Today’s meeting was only the fourth ever inter-Korean summit, following 2000, 2007 and April events.
Moon will hold a press briefing on Sunday morning, the Blue House announced. Blue House officials could not confirm which side had requested the summit, or when.
National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon of South Korea and Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea of North Korea accompanied their leaders at the summit table. Photos showed that Kim’s sister, Yo-jong, widely believed to be a key player in her brother’s inner circle, was also present.
The news of the afternoon summit was broken on Saturday evening almost three hours after it had finished. It came as a complete surprise: The two leaders had not been expected to meet again until the autumn.
The meeting indicates that inter-Korean communications – including a recently installed presidential hotline – are working appropriately. The chemistry between the two appeared positive: Photos showed the two leaders hugging on a red carpet, re-kindling the bromance they began a month prior.
Unlike the previous summit in April, which had been planned in advance and included ceremonial elements and press facilities for some 3,000 journalists from across the world, today’s summit took place with no forewarning. No journalists are believed to have been present; unusually, the Blue House released its own photos.
The meeting came less than two days after US President Donald Trump had announced that he was calling off his summit with Kim, planned for June 12 in Singapore, citing hostile North Korean media messaging. US officials subsequently revealed that North Korea officials had failed to meet them for a pre-summit preparatory meeting in Singapore, and were not responding to US communications.
Trump’s announcement came as a shock to South Korea, which was apparently not pre-warned. But North Korean state media, in a measured response, stated that they were still open to meeting the US president.
Trump then tweeted that the Singapore summit might go ahead, after all, writing, ““We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date.”