South Korean President Moon Jae-in has begun his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the hope of brokering a compromise to keep Pyongyang’s talks with Washington from imploding.
Mr Kim gave the South Korean president an exceedingly warm welcome, meeting him and his wife at Pyongyang’s airport — itself a very unusual gesture — then riding into town with Mr Moon in an open limousine through streets lined with crowds of North Koreans, who cheered and waved the flag of their country and a blue-and-white flag that symbolises Korean unity.
The made-for-television welcome is par for the course for Mr Moon’s summits with Mr Kim.
The two were joined by two of their top deputies — spy chief Suh Hoon and presidential security director Chung Eui-yong for Mr Moon, and Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, and senior Workers’ Party official Kim Yong Chol for the North Korean leader, according to Mr Moon’s office.
At the start of their meeting, Mr Kim thanked Mr Moon for brokering a June summit with US President Donald Trump.
“It’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-US summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilised and more progress is expected,” Mr Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports.
The results of the talks were not immediately available. Seoul officials earlier said they would focus on how to achieve denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, decrease military tensions along their border and improve overall ties.
The North’s media said the talks would reaffirm their commitment to Korean peace, unity and prosperity.
During a conversation at the Paekhwawon guest house where Mr Moon was to stay, Mr Kim said North Koreans hope diplomacy will yield positive results.
“I think it was our people’s wish that we come up with good results as fast as we can,” Mr Kim said, according to the media pool reports.
Mr Moon responded that “Our hearts are fluttering, but at the same we have heavy hearts,” and added, “We have built trust and friendship between us, so I think all will be well.”
The two are to meet again on Wednesday.