U.S. ‘pleased’ after Koreas set date for summit

March 30, 2018
This file photo shows U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. (Yonhap)

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Yonhap) — The United States said Thursday it was “pleased” after South and North Korea announced a date for their summit in late April.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet on the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom on April 27, both sides said after high-level talks earlier in the day.

The meeting is expected to address North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and inter-Korean ties.

“The fact that South Korea is having talks with North Korea — that helped get us to this point,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in an interview on CNN. “We are closely linked up with them. We talk with them constantly about these upcoming meetings. So we’re pleased to see this development.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has also agreed to meet with Kim before the end of May to talk about the regime’s denuclearization.

“We don’t have a date for that just yet,” Nauert said. “We look forward to that possibly happening sometime in the near future, but I think it just shows how closely linked up we are with (South Korea).”

She later added during a department press briefing that the Koreas’ summit “just moves us closer to the point where the United States can sit down with North Korea and have a meeting.”

While the U.S. is “realistic” about the prospects, the department continues to prepare for the meeting “in full faith and good faith,” she said.

Kim made a surprise trip to Beijing this week and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Asked if China could be trying to reexert its influence over the wayward ally ahead of the Trump-Kim summit, the spokeswoman told CNN that China has “tremendous” influence with North Korea.

“China has been helpful to the United States and many other countries in the maximum pressure campaign that our president constructed just last year,” she said, referring to economic and diplomatic sanctions that have been increasingly leveled on Pyongyang. “So we continue to ask China to use its unique leverage on North Korea to get North Korea to come to the table.

“North Korea has said through our interlocutors that it is willing to denuclearize. That is the capstone of our policy — getting North Korea to denuclearize,” she added.