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Donald Trump to get special message from Kim Jong-un at United Nations

September 24, 2018

UNITED NATIONS President Trump is slated to hold a high-stakes meeting here Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will deliver a private message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that officials hope may boost the recently stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

The meeting, on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly taking place this week in New York, comes four days after Mr. Moon held a summit with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, where the North Korean leader vowed to consider destroying his main nuclear complex but only if the U.S. first takes unspecified “corresponding measures.”

With speculation soaring over what those measures might be U.S. hardliners believe Mr. Kim either wants up-front sanctions relief or a removal of American forces from South Korea Mr. Moon is expected give Mr. Trump a sense of precisely what the North Korean leader seeks since Mr. Kim himself is not coming to New York.

At a minimum, foreign policy insiders say that the South Korean president, who’s held lengthy one-on-one meetings with Mr. Kim three times over the past eight months, is in a unique position to convince Mr. Trump whether or not the North Korean leader is actually serious about giving up his nuclear weapons.

“President Moon has spent a lot of time with Kim Jong-un,” said Ambassador Joseph Yun, who served at the end of the Obama administration and into the start of the Trump administration as the State Department’s Special Representative for North Korea Policy.

“I would expect President Moon to really do a big update for President Trump on exactly where Kim Jong-un wants to go on the whole project,” Mr. Yun told reporters on a conference call Friday hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he is now a senior advisor on Asia.

But big uncertainties remain. South Korea’s Yonhap New Agency noted Monday that Mr. Moon has said he intends to discuss with Mr. Trump what “corresponding measures” Mr. Kim seeks before taking serious action denuclearization.

The South Korean president has said one way for Washington to present a concession to Pyongyang could be for Mr. Trump to throw his weight behind a formal declaration officially ending the Korean War, which was frozen 65 years ago by an armistice but no peace treaty.

Mr. Moon is keenly aware that U.S. support for such a declaration could be difficult for Washington because it would bring into question America’s justification for keeping some 30,000 U.S. military personnel positioned in South Korea a key strategic footprint not far from China.

The South Korean president has noted that many fear a formal end to the 1950-53 war may weaken the reason for the U.S. to continue maintaining the troops presence. But according to Yonhap, Mr. Moon has said a formal declaration would be a purely political statement that has nothing to do with U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula and that Mr. Kim shares such a view.

What remains to be seen is how Mr. Trump will respond. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo avoided the issue during repeated television interviews over the weekend instead emphasizing that negotiations with Pyongyang are ongoing and that a second one-on-one summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim is likely forthcoming.

The two met in June for a historic meeting in Singapore, where they signed a joint statement in which Mr. Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” and Mr. Kim expressed an “unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

When pressed on whether the next step could see Mr. Trump declare is support for a formal end of the Korean War, Mr. Pompeo told the BBC he would not talk about “negotiations, where they stand [or] give any details that we choose not to make public.”

“It’s important for the world to remember, [North Korea] is a country that threatened the world with nuclear weapons and missile systems,” the secretary of state said. “The world then made a decision to vote [in] a set of U.N. Security Council resolutions that mandated the denuclearization of North Korea. The two leaders met, and Chairman Kim promised President Trump that he would do it, and my task and the task of others is to ensure that we implement the agreement from Singapore.”

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