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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 14)

All Headlines 07:10 May 14, 2018

Moon-Trump talks
Close Korea-U.S. coordination needed before U.S.-N.K. summit

U.S. President Donald Trump announced last week that his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place in Singapore on June 12.

The need for close coordination between South Korea and the U.S. is highlighted at this point to ensure North Korea's denuclearization. In particular, Seoul needs to quell conservatives' concerns that the issue of U.S. troops may emerge as part of negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea for disarmament.

Responding to media reports about this, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said, "The President has not asked the Pentagon to provide options for reducing American forces stationed in South Korea."

Trump also denied that he was considering troops removal at the moment. Given that he has in the past penalized Korea for "paying peanuts" to retain the U.S. troops, there is a possibility that Trump may seek a reduction to save costs in the long run.

There are grave concerns here about any change to the presence of the U.S. troops, which many Koreans perceive as the backbone of national security. This perception will persist even if an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War is declared pursuant to the April 27 Panmunjeom Declaration signed between President Moon Jae-in and Kim.

There are huge expectations among South Koreans for the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore. The latest developments, such as the release of U.S. detainees in North Korea and Pyongyang's announcement that it will publicly dismantle its nuclear test site this month, are positive signals for the U.S.-North Korea summit. But for the Singapore meeting to be a success, Korea and the U.S. first need to coordinate closely about the terms of negotiation with Pyongyang. Seoul must ensure that that our position is duly represented.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha visited Washington last week to meet new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently met Kim twice in Pyongyang. "We talked about the fact that America has, often in history, had adversaries who we are now close partners with and our hope that we could achieve the same with respect to North Korea," Pompeo told a press conference on May 11. "If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on par with our South Korean friends."

Kang's visit reaffirmed that the two countries are on the same page regarding North Korea's denuclearization.

"We are very clear that sanctions remain in place until and unless we see visible, meaningful action taken by North Korea on the denuclearization track," Kang said.

When Moon meets Trump in Washington on May 22, Moon should make good use of the opportunity to mediate a fruitful meeting between Trump and Kim.

A hotline was established between the leaders of the two Koreas after the Panmunjeom meeting. It is expected that it will be used for the first time soon. Moon should advise Kim not to make demands that the U.S. cannot accept and make solid steps to convince the world that this time the North is sincere about denuclearization.

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