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South Korean president in US to discuss planned US-North Korea summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, wave before leaving for the United States at the Seoul Airport in Seongnam, South Korea, on May 21, 2018. (Photo by AP)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has traveled to the Unites States ahead of a summit that is supposed to be held between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Moon arrived in Andrews Base, Maryland, on Monday to meet Trump and determine whether Washington was still willing to go ahead with the summit after Pyongyang threatened to cancel it over American demands to denuclearize at once.

Moon’s visit to the US was originally arranged as a meeting to fine-tune a joint strategy for dealing with North Korea but has instead become more of a crisis session after Pyongyang last week threatened to scrap plans for the summit.

Yonhap news agency quoted a Blue House official as saying that Moon would “likely tell President Trump what to expect and what not to expect from Kim.”

Moon’s government led efforts to resume dialog with North Korea and gave enthusiastic accounts of its encounters with Kim, offering Trump an invitation reportedly on North Korea’s behalf to a first-ever meeting between US and North Korean presidents.

Trump grasped the invitation as an opportunity to “do a deal” with North Korea.

If the summit is canceled or if it fails, it would be a major blow to what Trump supporters hoped would have been the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.

Meanwhile, foreign journalists have arrived in Pyongyang to monitor the closing down of a nuclear test site, which North Korea has promised as a goodwill gesture.

New twists

The White House was caught off-guard when, in a new twist, North Korea condemned the latest US-South Korean military drills, suspended North-South talks, and threatened to cancel the summit scheduled for June 12.

Pyongyang, which has developed the nuclear and missile technology to allow it to hit the continental United States, insisted that it won’t be pushed toward “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

Trump suggested that Kim’s apparent change of heart may have been at the behest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“It could very well be that he (President Xi)’s influencing Kim Jong-un,” Trump said, citing a recent meeting between the Chinese president and the North Korean leader.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

But China, which has close ties with North Korea, has announced its support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the potential Trump-Kim summit.

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