March 29, 2019
SEOUL (Reuters) – Senior South Korean officials, including President Moon Jae-in, are launching a series of meetings with their U.S. counterparts in a bid to jumpstart stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea and mend fraying ties in their alliance.
Moon will meet U.S. President Donald Trump for a summit in Washington on April 11 to discuss North Korea and other alliance issues, the White House said on Friday.
“The alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea remains the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in the region,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump’s failure to seal a deal at his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February was a blow to Moon, who has been vocal in his conviction that Kim is willing to abandon his nuclear arsenal.
Washington and Seoul have also tussled over the cost of U.S. troops in South Korea, with Trump demanding that Seoul pay more toward maintaining some 28,500 of them.
Ahead of the Trump-Moon summit, South Korea said it was dispatching its foreign and defense ministers, among other senior officials, for meetings in Washington.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday to discuss ways to move forward after the failed Trump-Kim summit.
Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo will meet the U.S. acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, on Monday, the ministry said.
The lack of progress with North Korea has become a domestic problem for Moon, who has staked much of his political capital on improving relations with Pyongyang.
A Gallup poll released on Friday showed Moon’s approval ratings hit a record-low of 43 percent as respondents complained about the lack of progress with North Korea while the economy suffers.
(Reporting by Josh Smith, Hyonhee Shin, and Joyce Lee; Editing)