S. Korea’s Moon says N. Korean leader Kim will visit Seoul ‘soon’

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will “soon” visit Seoul as part of a series of high-profile diplomatic efforts aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons. Moon said in a speech to parliament that a second North Korea-U.S. summit is also “near at hand” and that Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit North Korea soon. Moon also said he expects Kim to visit Russia soon and that Kim may meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Moon has previously said that Kim told him he would visit Seoul within this year when the leaders met in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, in September. South Korea’s presidential office said it had nothing to add to Moon’s speech about Kim’s trip. His comments were in line with previous statements, it said. They suggest that Moon is determined to push ahead with diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue.

“Now, based on firm trust among one another, South and North Korea and the United States will achieve complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. “This is an opportunity that has come like a miracle. It’s something that we should never miss.” The prospects for a second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump improved after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made his fourth visit to North Korea last month. But no breakthrough has followed. U.S. officials have recently said a second Trump-Kim summit will likely happen early next year. Some experts have raised doubts over whether Kim’s Seoul trip will occur by December. Moon, a liberal who took office last year, favors a negotiated resolution to the decades-long international standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. He has facilitated a series of high-level U.S.-North Korea exchanges, including their first summit in Singapore in June. But Moon has faced growing outside skepticism over whether his engagement policy will eventually settle the nuclear standoff. Many conservatives in South Korea and the United States say North Korea has no intention of fully giving up its nuclear program and only wants to buy time to perfect its weapons.

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