April 28, 2018 / 9:12 AM / 24 days ago

WRAPUP 4-North Korean media hails summit as Trump presses for full denuclearisation

(Adds White House comments)

By Josh Smith

SEOUL, April 29 (Reuters) - North Korea’s state news agency on Saturday called the inter-Korean summit a turning point for the Korean peninsula, while U.S. President Donald Trump said he would maintain sanctions pressure on Pyongyang ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with Kim Jong Un.

The North’s KCNA news agency separately released the joint statement North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in presented on Friday after the first summit in more than a decade between the two Koreas.

Kim and Moon had pledged to work for “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula and agreed on a common goal of a “nuclear-free” peninsula.

“At the talks both sides had a candid and open-hearted exchange of views on the matters of mutual concern including the issues of improving the north-south relations, ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” KCNA said, reporting that the night wrapped up with a dinner with an “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives.”

A day after the meeting between Kim and Moon produced dramatic images and a sweeping declaration of goodwill, South Korean media were replaying striking scenes of the two leaders and North Korea’s main state newspaper published a multi-page spread with more than 60 photos from the visit.

On Saturday afternoon, North Korean state TV broadcast its first footage of the summit.

Most of the specific commitments outlined in the official declaration focused on inter-Korean relations and did not clear up the question of whether Pyongyang is willing to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

In their coverage of the summit, North Korean state media made rare mentions of the denuclearisation discussion, but did not go into specifics, instead highlighting the broad themes of peace, prosperity, and Korean unity.

The declaration earned guarded but optimistic praise from world leaders, including Trump, who said on Friday that only time would tell, but that he did not think Kim was “playing.”

“It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal ... We are going to hopefully make a deal.”

Still, Trump told reporters, he would maintain pressure on North Korea and “not repeat the mistakes of past administrations.”

On Saturday, Trump said on Twitter that he “just had a long and very good talk with President Moon of South Korea. Things are going very well, time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set.”

Trump added that he had also spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to inform him of ongoing negotiations.

The White House later said Trump and Moon during the call “emphasized that a peaceful and prosperous future for North Korea is contingent upon its complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

The White House also said Trump had informed Abe that he would “urge North Korea to promptly resolve its abductions of Japanese citizens.”

A senior U.S. official said Singapore is being considered as a possible venue for the Trump-Kim summit.

Speaking on Saturday at a televised news conference in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Trump’s negotiations on North Korea and said he helped bring the two Korean leaders together.

“I have given him that credit because Donald Trump has taken a very, very strong, hard line on the denuclearisation issue and he has been able to bring in the support of the global community and, in particular, China,” Turnbull said. “North Korea’s economic relationship is overwhelmingly with China. And so China’s preparedness to impose those sanctions has been the critical change that has put the economic pressure on North Korea.”

Turnbull said the pressure from China and the U.S. had brought Kim to the point of denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

“What we’ve now got to do is not relent on the economic pressure until that goal is achieved,” he said.

Australia will send a military aircraft to monitor North Korean vessels suspected of transferring illicit goods in defiance of U.N. sanctions, he said.

Iran, facing a possible U.S. exit from its nuclear deal with world powers, welcomed the inter-Korean summit, but said Washington was not a “qualified” partner in the negotiations.

“Iran sees (the summit) as an important step in the right direction that can contribute to lasting regional and global peace and security,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state media.

“The U.S. government is not a credible actor, doesn’t comply with its international obligations and doesn’t qualify to take part in arrangements between countries,” Qasemi added.

An editorial in the official China Daily on Saturday said denuclearisation could end hostilities between the two sides and “usher in a new era of development” on the peninsula, but noted Friday’s declaration lacked a plan for achieving the goal.

“The denuclearisation of the peninsula, written into the Panmunjom Declaration, is only a prospect with no specific plan. That is because such specifics can be reached only between the US and North Korea, and South Korea has only limited authority to bargain,” it said. (Reporting by Christine Kim in SEOUL, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Alison Bevege in SYDNEY, and Dubai newsroom. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Susan Thomas)

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