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South Korea’s Moon: North Korea still committed to full denuclearization

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said North Korean leader remains committed to denuclearization and an end to the Korean War after a surprise meeting between the two leaders Saturday.

“Chairman Kim said Friday afternoon he wanted to meet without any formalities, and I accepted,” Moon said Sunday in Seoul.

“(Kim) once again has made clear his will for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and expressed his intent to settle the history of war and confrontation, and to cooperate for peace and prosperity through the success of the North Korea-US summit.”

The two leaders reiterated hopes for a successful North Korea-US summit after US President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a meeting between the two countries planned for June 12 in Singapore. Trump cited hostile comments from top North Korean officials as his reason for scrapping the meeting, as well as concern about the country’s commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons.

Moon said on Sunday: “Our journey to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a permanent peace agreement cannot be stopped, and we have decided to cooperate closely.”

Surprise meeting

The South Korean President met Kim on the North side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas late Saturday. Their last meeting on April 27 was held on the South side.

In a statement Sunday released before Moon spoke, North Korean state media said the meeting took place “all of a sudden.”

North Korea informed its own people of the meeting between Moon and Kim, with reports in state-run media hailing a “new era of reconciliation and unity.”

“Panmunjom, the historical land which had once come under global spotlights as a symbol of peace for making a new start of the north-south relations and opening up a new era of reconciliation and unity, witnessed the significant meeting between the top leaders of the north and the south once again after 29 days,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

KCNA said Moon signed the visitors’ book in Thongil House where the meeting took place, writing “”Peace and Prosperity of the Korean Peninsula, together with Chairman Kim Jong Un.”

“At the talks there were in-depth exchanges of opinions to tackle the matters which should be resolved to quickly carry out the Panmunjom Declaration agreed upon at the third North-South summit and to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and achieve regional peace, stability and prosperity,” KCNA said.

The Panmunjom Declaration was the result of the first meeting between Moon and Kim in April, and committed the two countries to denuclearization of the Peninsula and talks to bring a formal end to the Korean War.

Kim thanked Moon “for much effort made by him” towards the US-North Korea summit, and said he hoped to improve relations with Washington and “establish mechanism for permanent and durable peace.”

Photos of Kim and Moon embracing and shaking hands also appeared on the Sunday front page of state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

Singapore summit called off

In a tweet Friday, Trump had said “very productive talks” were continuing on the North Korean summit.

“We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date,” Trump wrote.

Moon, who has been a mediator between Trump and Kim, called an emergency meeting in the middle of the night Thursday after Trump called off the June summit in a letter to Kim.

North Korea had indicated it wasn’t happy with the way things were progressing when it called of high level talks with South Korea over joint US-South Korean military drills.

US officials said the final straw for Trump came when a North Korean Foreign Ministry official called Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” and hinted that Pyongyang was ready for a “nuclear showdown” should diplomacy fail.

The US also claimed in a background briefing that North Korean officials had failed to show up in Singapore to arrange logistics for the June meeting.

But a North Korean Foreign Ministry official said Friday that Kim was still willing to meet with Trump “at any time.”

By James Griffiths and Sophie Jeong, CNN