Trump, South Korea’s Moon discuss North Korea, sharing military costs

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Korean President Moon Jae-in hold a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump has met his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly to discuss resuming denuclearization talks with North Korea.

After the summit at the UN headquarters in New York City on Tuesday, the two leaders said they were optimistic about a possible restart of the negotiations, which stalled following Trump’s second meeting with South Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam back in February.

Trump and Moon said they explored ways to achieve practical results in working-level talks, which Pyongyang said in September it was ready to take part in.

According to a statement by the White House, Trump was confident that Kim would fulfill the pledges he made during their two summits.

At the first summit in Singapore in June 2018, Kim agreed to halt all nuclear and long-range missile tests as a first step.

"There's been no nuclear testing at all," Trump told reporters as he met Moon."And the relationships have been very good.”

“We want to see if we can do something. If we can, that'll be great. And if we can't, that's fine, we'll see what happens," he added.

Before meeting Moon, Trump once again downplayed the North’s test-launch of short-range missiles over the past weeks.

"We didn't have an agreement on short-range missiles. And a lot of people and a lot of countries test short-range missiles," Trump added. "There's nothing spectacular about that."

Moon said he looked forward for the working-level negotiations to be held soon so the two leaders could meet for a third summit. Trump, however, said he wanted to get a picture of the possible outcomes before agreeing to any meetings with Kim.

"Right now, people would like to see that happen. I want to know what's going to be coming out of it. We can know a lot before the summit takes place," the American head of state said.

Trump and Moon renewed a previous agreement to avoid using force against the North and help build a bright future for the country if it ever agrees to denuclearization, the Reuters reported, citing a senior official at South Korea's presidential Blue House.

The official added that both Trump and Moon discussed whether sanctions should continue against Pyongyang but did not mention the "new method" in their approach to denuclearization.

North Korea has welcomed Trump’s recent remarks about adopting a new approach, which interestingly came after he fired National Security Adviser John Bolton, another move that sat well with Pyongyang.

Hailing the decision to fire “nasty” and “troublemaker” Bolton, the North said it looked forward to see what Trump’s next step would be.

Last week, Trump distanced himself from Bolton’s suggestions for a Libyan model of denuclearization for Pyongyang, saying it "set us back very badly."

Trump and Kim came together once again in late June, when they held a brief summit at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. There, they agreed to resume negotiations after abruptly ending the Vietnam summit.

‘US-North Korea talks might happen soon’

Meanwhile, South Korean lawmakers briefed by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said on Tuesday that American and North Korean officials could resume working-level talks within the next two to three weeks.

The lawmakers noted that a fourth Trump-Kim summit was also possible by year end, should the negotiations make progress.

Speaking to reporters after the NIS briefing, the lawmakers said Kim was likely to visit China for a fifth summit with President Xi Jinping before meeting with Trump again.

US, South Korea to hold military cost-sharing talks

Later on Tuesday, American and South Korean representatives were slated to hold talks in Seoul on renewing a military cost-sharing deal that expires at the end of the year.

South Korea has agreed to shoulder some of the costs that come with hosting what is now about 28,500 US troops in the country since a 1991 pact.

In March, Seoul signed a deal with Washington to pay 1.04 trillion won ($870.94 million) for 2019, some 8.2 percent more than last year.

Trump and Moon on Tuesday discussed the importance of signing a cost-sharing deal before the end of 2019 in order to boost their alliance, the White House said in a statement.

Trump has repeatedly urged the South to contribute more to the cost.

"Talks have begun to further increase payments to the United States", he wrote on Twitter last month. "South Korea is a very wealthy nation".

Moon said Seoul planned to contribute to the stationing of US troops by increasing its purchases of American weapons while steadily increasing South Korea's share of costs, the senior Blue House official added.

US helicopter drops huge container on building in South Korea

Meanwhile, the military presence in South Korea proved even more costly for the hosts after a US military helicopter dropped a 1,700-pound metal container unit being airlifted on a building in Yongin, just south of Seoul.

"By all accounts, it did cause property damage, but nobody was injured," said Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the Infantry unit the helicopter belonged to said on Monday . "Unit leaders are on the ground, and a thorough investigation has been launched to determine the circumstances and cause of the accident."

The continued American military presence in South Korea has stoked anti-US sentiment in the country. The American military personnel have on many occasions caused outrage by committing various crimes including rape and assault.

The US forces were put under curfew in July, after a drunk soldier attempted to steal a taxi and hit a Korean National Police officer in the process.

Last week, the US Forces Korea suspended the curfew for 90 more days as "an opportunity for USFK uniformed personnel to demonstrate their ability to maintain good order and discipline, at all times and under all conditions.”

The Pentagon insists the troops are in South Korea to deter a possible attack from the north of the border.

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