South Korea's President could join the US-North Korea summit, but he might end up stealing Trump's thunder
- South Korean President Moon Jae-in could join the US-North Korea summit in Singapore, if invited.
- A South Korean official reportedly said that, if Moon attends, he would be there to take part in discussions about declaring a formal end to the Korean War, which has technically been ongoing since 1953.
- But Moon's potential presence in the US-North Korea summit could end up complicating things between the two mercurial leaders in Trump and Kim Jong Un.
As US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un prepare for their meeting in Singapore on June 12, South Korea indicated it might also join if an invite is extended to President Moon Jae-in.
"We plan to make preparations [for a trip] when there is an invitation, though we still do not know whether there will be one," a South Korean official said, according to Yonhap News.
The official stopped short of saying Moon was indeed anticipating an invitation, and said that Moon had "no plans to prepare for a three-way summit in advance."
The statement leaves room for speculation about whether Moon could join the first meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader.
South Korean officials reported said that, if Moon attends, he would be there to take part in discussions about declaring a formal end to the Korean War, which has technically been ongoing since 1953.
Still, people familiar with the talks said there was a rift amongst White House officials on whether it's too soon in the negotiation process to talk about ending the Korean War, The Washington Post reported this week.
NEW: U.S.-North Korea summit is back on, Pres. Trump says; "June 12, we will be in Singapore. I've never said it happens in one meeting -- you're talking about years of hostility, years of problems, years of hatred between so many different nations." https://t.co/he9uLA17dy pic.twitter.com/hSYtXLcBxQ— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 1, 2018
Such a development, if it were to happen during the Trump-Kim summit, would no doubt boost the US President, and bring him full circle on the Korea matter — from North Korea agitator to peacemaker.
While South Korea has long been in favour of a trilateral summit, the US hasn't so willing, according to Mintaro Oba, a former State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs.
"Normally, I would be skeptical of a trilateral format," Oba told Business Insider. "But President Moon has shown himself to be a pragmatic diplomatic and a moderating force."
But Trump, who relishes the pomp and circumstance of the presidency, may not be so amenable to Moon third-wheeling it in Singapore during his meeting with Kim.
"Everything we've seen with Trump's administration is that they don't want to highlight South Korea in this process," Oba added. "They want Trump in the centre stage," he said.
Moon could also inadvertently chill the relations between the leaders if he were to take part in the talks, Oba said, and would "give the opportunity to test the divisions of the other two leaders you're dealing with."
The US-South Korean relationship has been at the heart of every political debate involving North Korea, with some experts believing Pyongyang is prodding for weaknesses between the allies for its own advantage.
Meanwhile, both US and South Korean officials continued to meet with their North Korean counterparts in recent weeks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a discussion on Wednesday with Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of North Korea's ruling party's Central Committee.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon met with Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification.
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