President Moon Jae-In of South Korea visited President Trump at the White House on Thursday for a summit that lasted less than two hours. During the meeting, Moon asked President Trump to maintain a dialogue with North Korea, and to consider easing sanctions on Kim Jong-Un in exchange for movements toward denuclearization by Kim.
The American President rejected the notion of easing sanctions.
“No, we want sanctions to remain in place,” he said when asked if may consider sanctions relief. “I think that sanctions are right now in a level that is fair and I really believe something significant is going to happen.”Korea Herald
President Trump also stated he was open to the possibility of a third summit with the North Korean leader. This mirrored the official position of Moon who, after a pre-summit meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, stated that he thought the top-down approach of direct negotiations between Trump and Kim were necessary “to maintain the momentum of dialogue and achieve results” per the Chosun Ilbo.
Moon is a progressive politician whose approval ratings spiked after his initial meeting with Kim Jong Un. With encouragement from the White House, Moon has steadily moved toward reconciliation with Un.
The last year has seen significant political reversals for Moon, however. His popularity has been most affected by the failure of his economic policies, with the minimum wage increase condemned as not large enough to bring people out of poverty by the Korean left, and as damaging to hiring and investment by the Korean business community. Economic damage has also been wrought by the recent chill between South Korea and longtime ally Japan, and political damage has been done by Kim Jong Un’s apparent duplicity regarding denuclearization. Moon’s popularity has bumped higher in recent weeks, but is no longer above 50% approval.
That may move lower if Un continues to use his newly granted prominence on the international stage to increase North Korean economic development while simultaneously remaining defiant about nuclear weaponry.
“We must deal a serious blow to the hostile forces who are mistakenly determined to bring us down with sanctions by advancing the socialist construction to a high level of self-reliance that fits our circumstances and state, based on our own power, technology and resources.”KCNA, via Straits Times
This summit, if it was meant to move toward a concrete policy toward North Korea, was a complete failure. If it was to demonstrate that Moon is still an influential figure in the Korean talks, it instead provided an image of a man whose political investment in Trump and Un has rendered him impotent.