South Korean President Moon Jae-in is due to hold talks with Donald Trump as uncertainty looms over a planned summit next month between the US president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Moon arrived in Washington, DC, ahead of the key White House meeting on Tuesday, three weeks before the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore scheduled for June 12.
“President Trump and President Moon will continue their close coordination on developments regarding the Korean Peninsula,” a White House statement said earlier this month.
“The two leaders will also discuss President Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” the statement added.
The US is calling for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and a complete dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
Trump and Moon have already held two telephone conversations, including one on Sunday, since the historic inter-Korean summit last month, South Korea’s official news agency, Yonhap, reported.
The Moon-Trump meeting, a third between the two leaders, comes after North Korea threatened to pull out of the Singapore summit last week, unless the US offers something in return for the denuclearisation demand.
“If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the … summit,” said a statement by Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs.
For his part, Trump said North Korean officials are discussing logistical details about the meeting with the US “as if nothing happened”.
“I can only say our people are literally dealing with them right now in terms of making arrangements for the meeting,” he told reporters after Pyongyang’s threat.
North Korea also abruptly cancelled ministerial talks with Seoul last week, in response to the ‘Max Thunder’ joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, which involves some 100 military aircraft.
South Korea has offered to mediate between the US and North Korea, so the Trump-Kim summit takes place as planned.
Andrei Lankov, a specialist in Korean studies and director of NK News, said Seoul is looking to avoid escalation.
“He [Moon] will still try to persuade Donald Trump to accept some kind of compromise to go to the North Koreans to the negotiation table and negotiate some kind of compromise because right now, South Korea, above all, needs stability,” Lankov told Al Jazeera.
Moon last met Trump in Seoul, when he visited the South Korean capital in November.