President Trump will host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House next week for a meeting expected to center on clarifying and aligning the expectations that Washington and Seoul have for Mr. Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
The Moon visit Tuesday comes amid uncertainty over the planned June 12 summit after North Korea threatened this week to pull out amid anger over National Security Advisor John R. Bolton’s claims that Washington seeks a quick, verifiable, “Libya model” denuclearization from Pyongyang.
President Trump walked back Mr. Bolton’s assertions Thursday, telling reporters “the Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea,” and stressing that if Mr. Kim is serious about abandoning his nuclear program, Washington will provide the North Korean leader’s regime with “protections.”
While those comments hang in the backdrop, national security sources say the White House is scrambling behind-the-scenes to nail down exactly what its expectations are for the highly-anticipated summit with Mr. Kim in Singapore.
That’s where President Moon comes in, says Hak-Soon Paik, the head North Korea analyst at the Sejong Institute, a top South Korean think tank.
Mr. Paik, who’s in Washington ahead of Mr. Moon’s visit to the White House, says it “comes at an opportune moment” for both South Korea and the U.S.
“On the U.S. side, the administration has a chance to hear directly from the South Korean president what his views toward what Mr. Trump’s expectations should be for the upcoming summit with Kim,” Mr. Paik told The Washington Times on Friday.
“For the South Korean side,” he said, “this is a moment to advise Mr. Trump directly on Seoul’s view of what would or would not amount to a successful [summit].”
The Moon visit comes roughly a month after Mr. Trump held a similar meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to soak in his perspective on how a one-on-one with Mr. Kim should play out.
A top aid to Mr. Abe said at the time that the Japanese premier told Mr. Trump to demand Mr. Kim meet a hard deadline of 2020 to permanently surrender his nuclear programs and that no sanctions relief for Pyongyang should be granted until the deadline is met.
Katsuyuki Kawai, the special adviser for foreign affairs to Mr. Abe from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Mr. Abe also pressed Mr. Trump to realize “America is in a stronger position than Chairman Kim” and that North Korean denuclearization has to occur before Mr. Trump faces a potentially difficult re-election campaign in just two years.
Sources close to Mr. Moon have told The Times the South Korean president is likely to offer similar advice next week, with particular emphasis on the timeline the administration should demand for denuclearization.
One source said Mr. Moon will attempt to make the case that at least a year, if not considerably longer, will be needed in order for any kind of successful, verifiable denuclearization to occur.