Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

South Africa vows to recover 'looted cash' in VBS bank collapse scandal

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

EU rejects Italy's budget proposal

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

A climactic day in fallout of Khashoggi killing

Read more

THE DEBATE

The Pressure on Saudi Arabia: What Turkey knows about Khashoggi murder

Read more

ENCORE!

The Joubran Trio: 'We hope one day to be free of our identity'

Read more

FOCUS

Fields of despair: Suicide plagues French farmers

Read more

IN THE PRESS

Was Tanzanian billionaire's kidnapping 'a political warning'?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

OAS chief urges ICC to open formal probe into Venezuela crimes

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

Down syndrome in France: 'People are ready for inclusion, institutions must catch up'

Read more

Trump-Kim summit in play as Moon visits White House

© AFP/File | A meeting between US President Donald Trump, left, and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In could decide whether the US president's much-vaunted summit with the North's leader Kim Jong Un goes ahead

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Donald Trump holds a high-stakes meeting with South Korea's president at the White House Tuesday, talks that could decide whether the US president's much-vaunted summit with the North's leader Kim Jong Un goes ahead.

Moon Jae-in jets into Washington on a mission to salvage a rare diplomatic opening between the US and North Korea that is in trouble almost before it begins.

Trump had agreed to meet inscrutable "Supreme Leader" Kim in Singapore on June 12, but the first-ever US-North Korea summit is now in serious doubt, with both sides expressing reservations.

South Korea -- worried about Kim's bellicose weapons testing and Trump's similarly bellicose warnings about a looming war -- was instrumental in convincing the two Cold War foes to sit down and talk.

Moon sent his own national security advisor to the White House in March, carrying an offer of talks and word that North Korea may be willing to abandon nuclear weapons, an enticing prospect.

Trump surprised his guests, his own aides and the world by summarily accepting the meeting, seeing an opportunity to "do a deal" and avoid military confrontation.

Pyongyang is on the verge of marrying nuclear and missile technology allowing it to hit the continental United States with a nuke, a capability Washington sees as wholly unacceptable.

Since then, there has been a landmark series of intra-Korean meetings, two trips to Pyongyang by Mike Pompeo -- first as CIA director then as America's top diplomat -- and three American citizens have been released from the North.

But after several Trumpian victory laps, North Korea's willingness to denuclearize is now in serious doubt.

Earlier this month, North Korea denounced US demands for "unilateral nuclear abandonment" and cancelled at the last minute a high-level meeting with the South in protest over joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

Trump responded by saying the meeting may or may not take place.

"The president has said, right now it's still on. If that changes you'll find out about it," a noncommittal Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Monday.

- 'We'll see what happens' -

But Trump also surprised many by offering Kim an upfront security guarantee, allowing him to stay in power, and suggested that Kim's apparent about-face may have been at the behest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

"It could very well be that he's influencing Kim Jong Un," Trump said, citing a recent meeting between the pair, their second in a month's time. "We'll see what happens."

Analysts saw North Korea's perceived slow peddling as evidence of what they feared all along, that Pyongyang may have been playing for time -- hoping to ease sanctions and "maximum pressure" or of South Korea overtorquing the prospects of a deal.

"The current episode of tension reflects a wide and dangerous expectation gap between the United States and North Korea," said Eric Gomez of the CATO Institute.

"Denuclearization is not off the table for the North, but it expects the United States to end the so-called 'hostile policy' as a precondition for denuclearization."

It is far from clear what that means concretely, but it could include the forced withdrawal of 30,000 US troops from the Korean peninsula.

With just weeks to go and little clarity on what will be discussed or what happens if talks fail, some Korea watchers predict fireworks during Trump's talks with Moon.

"It increasingly looks like the Moon administration overstated North Korea's willingness to deal. Moon will probably get an earful over that," said Robert Kelly of Pusan National University.

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

© 2018 AFP