Moon declares Korean summit with Kim a success, will brief Trump next week in U.S.

A beaming South Korean President Moon Jae-in returned home Thursday from a whirlwind three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying Kim wants the U.S. secretary of state to visit Pyongyang soon for nuclear talks.

North Korea leader eager to meet with U.S president again, according to South Korea's president

South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters in Seoul on Thursday that followed his multi-day summit in North Korea, he will carry a private message from Kim Jong-un for Donald Trump on the nuclear standoff when he meets with the U.S. president in New York next week. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

A beaming South Korean President Moon Jae-in returned home Thursday from a whirlwind three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying Kim wants the U.S. secretary of state to visit Pyongyang soon for nuclear talks.

Moon told reporters in Seoul that he will carry a private message from Kim for Trump on the nuclear standoff when he meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in New York next week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

Both Trump, who has repeatedly spoken of his good relationship with Kim, and the North Korean leader have expressed a desire to meet again, but there are worries among observers about whether Kim is as committed to denuclearization as he claims. Moon faces increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in efforts to get Kim to completely — and unilaterally — abandon his nuclear arsenal.

"There are things that the United States wants us to convey to North Korea, and on the other side there are also things that North Korea wants us to convey to the United States," Moon said at a news centre in Seoul where reporters watched parts of his summit with Kim on video huge screens that occasionally showed live streams from Pyongyang. "I will faithfully serve that role when I meet President Trump to facilitate dialogue between North Korea and the United States."

Moon, who set up the June summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim and is eager for another to happen, also told reporters he'll convey to Trump his and Kim's desire to get a declaration on ending the Korean War by the end of this year.

The war still technically continues because it ended with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. Such a declaration would be the first step toward a formal peace treaty, but many in the United States are worried that it could result in Kim pushing for the removal of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to deter the North.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, second from right, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from left, and his wife Ri Sol Ju on the Mount Paektu in North Korea Thursday. (Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP)

On the final day of their summit stood, the leaders of the two stood on the peak of a beautiful volcano considered sacred in the North and a centrepiece of propaganda used to legitimize the Kim family's rule. Their hands were clasped and raised in a pose of triumph.

Their trip to the mountain on the North Korean-Chinese border, and the striking photo-op that will resonate in both Koreas, followed a day of wide-ranging agreements they trumpeted as a major step toward peace.

Photos showed the leaders — who flew separately to the mountain — smiling broadly as they posed at the summit, their wives grinning at their sides, a brilliant blue sky and the deep crater lake that tops the volcano in the background; they also toured the shores of the lake. Members of the Kim family are referred to as sharing the "Paektu Bloodline," and the volcano is emblazoned on the national emblem and lends its name to everything from rockets to power stations.

However, their premier accord on the issue that most worries the world — the North's pursuit of nuclear-tipped missiles that can accurately strike the U.S. mainland — contained a big condition: Kim stated that he would permanently dismantle North Korea's main nuclear facility only if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures.

Anti-North Korea protest

Many South Koreans also feel drawn to the volcano, which, according to Korean mythology, was the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of the first ancient Korean kingdom, and has long been considered one of the most beautiful places on the peninsula. Not everyone was pleased, though. About 100 anti-North Korea protesters rallied in central Seoul to express anger about the summit and displayed slogans that read, "No to SK-NK summit that benefit[s] Kim Jong Un."

Compared to the vague language of their two earlier summits, Kim and Moon seem to have agreed on an ambitious program meant to tackle tensions that soared last year.

Members of a South Korean conservative and right-wing civic group take part in an anti-Kim protest in Seoul. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon, and both leaders vowed to work together to try to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

But while containing several tantalizing offers, their joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for — such as a commitment by Kim to provide a list of North Korea's nuclear facilities, a solid step-by-step timeline for closing them down, or an agreement to allow international inspectors to assess progress or discover violations.

It also was unclear what "corresponding steps" North Korea wants from the U.S. to dismantle its nuclear site.

Major step toward peace, Korean leaders say

Trump told reporters Wednesday that the outcome of the summit was "very good news" and that "we're making tremendous progress" with North Korea. He didn't indicate in his brief remarks whether the U.S. would be willing to take further steps to encourage North Korean action on denuclearization.

Declaring they had made a major step toward peace, Moon and Kim stood side by side Wednesday as they announced their agreement.

North Koreans perform during the mass games performance of The Glorious Country, held in Pyongyang on Wednesday as part of Moon's visit to the capital. (Pyongyang Press Corps/Associated Press)

"We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat," Kim said. "The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can't anticipate. But we aren't afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation."

In the meantime, Moon and Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.

According to a statement signed by the countries' defence chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones.

Other agreements aimed at removing some longstanding irritants from their relations, such as allowing more contact between families divided by the Korean War. Moon also appeared to be making good on his proposals to help build up the North's infrastructure and open cross-border rail links.