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(LEAD) President Moon says he will meet N. Korean leader anywhere

16:07 April 15, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more remarks, other details; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Monday he hopes to meet again with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as early as possible, welcoming Kim's latest message on denuclearization talks.

Moon stressed that the venue and format of his fourth summit with Kim does not matter, as he seeks "concrete and substantive discussions" on ways to produce "fruits" to outdo those of two U.S.-North Korea summit talks.

"Now is the time to make preparations and push for South-North summit talks in earnest," he said in a meeting with senior presidential aides here.

He added, "As soon as North Korea's conditions are created, I hope the two Koreas will have another summit without being restrained by the venue and format."

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a meeting with his senior aides at Cheong Wa Dae on April 15, 2019. (Yonhap)

Moon's remarks were his first official message on North Korea since his White House summit with Trump.

Moon was also responding to the North Korean leader's speech to the Supreme People's Assembly last week, in which he urged the United States to change tack in order to continue denuclearization talks.

Kim said he will wait "with patience" till the end of this year, emphasizing that Pyongyang won't budge at all.

Moon described Kim's statement as showing a willingness to continue dialogue.

"As I have done so far, I will make utmost efforts so that another South-North summit will become a stepping stone to make a bigger opportunity and outcome," Moon said.

Through his warm approach toward Pyongyang, the liberal president is credited with having paved the way for the Korea peace process, which is still in a nascent stage.

It has hit a snag with the no-deal end of the second Trump-Kim talks, in Hanoi in late February, due to a wide gap over the definition and terms of denuclearization.

Seated with Moon last week, Trump said he would leave sanctions on Pyongyang in place. He also suggested a step-by-step formula toward a third meeting with Kim.

The North's leader pressed Trump to change tack.

"It is essential for the U.S. to quit its current calculation method and approach us with a new one," Kim said in the speech, according to Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

A silver lining is that both of the leaders expressed a desire for continued dialogue.

Moon is eager to broker or expedite another round of "top-down" nuclear talks. His aides say he can capitalize on his mutual trust with both Trump and Kim. He's reportedly planning to send a special envoy to Pyongyang in the near future in a bid to lay the groundwork for another inter-Korean summit.

In 2018, the president dispatched his top security advisor, Chung Eui-yong, and National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon, to the North Korean capital.

While Moon is scheduled to leave for Central Asia on Tuesday, Chung plans to stay in South Korea, Cheong Wa Dae officials said.


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