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(2nd LD) Cheong Wa Dae says inter-Korean summit is not a must before G-20

All News 16:28 June 18, 2019

(ATTN: MODIFIES paras 7-8 for clarification)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office publicly toned down its expectations for an early inter-Korean summit Tuesday, a day after Beijing and Pyongyang announced this week's bilateral summit.

Attending the Oslo Forum in the Norwegian capital last week, President Moon Jae-in expressed his desire to meet again with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before U.S. President Donald Trump visits South Korea at the end of June.

Trump is due in Northeast Asia to attend the Group of 20 summit to take place in Osaka, Japan, on June 28-29. He's widely expected to travel to Seoul on his way back home.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to pay a two-day state visit to Pyongyang starting Thursday, some observers here say the odds of an inter-Korean summit being held might have been lowered.

A combined image provided by Yonhap News TV of Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)

In response to a related question from reporters, a Cheong Wa Dae official said Moon is "not sticking to" the hope for early summit talks with Kim.

"It's not the most important goal. The most important one is Korean Peninsula denuclearization and peace," the official said.

On that road, judgments are being made, at every movement, on which way is most reasonable and effective to take, added the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

On concerns that Kim may show a hard-line stance after meeting with Xi, the official said the government will monitor Pyongyang's post-summit attitude.

An image of South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping (Yonhap)

Cheong Wa Dae earlier said South Korea had "close consultations" with China about the first visit to North Korea by China's top leader in 14 years.

It's apparently being made to reciprocate Kim's four visits to China for meetings with Xi.

The Moon administration wanted Xi to visit Seoul as well this month to show that bilateral relations have warmed after years of a sharp stand-off over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, known as THAAD.

On Monday night, Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson, Ko Min-jung, told reporters that South Korea and China have agreed "in principle" to hold a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the G-20 session. She gave no details.

An official at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul confirmed: "There's no news of a trip to South Korea (by Xi) on the occasion of the Osaka event. It's physically difficult."

Seoul and Beijing have continuously consulted on holding a bilateral meeting between Xi and Moon, he said, adding there will be no problem scheduling it despite their hectic activities in Osaka.

Hopefully, he said, conditions will "mature" for Xi's trip to South Korea in the wake of his visit to North Korea.


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