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Building rapport key to Moon-Trump summit

2017/06/30 18:00

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WASHINGTON, June 30 (Yonhap) -- The leaders of South Korea and the United States were set to hold a summit Friday, in which Seoul officials said building personal rapport will matter as much as substantial agreements on pending issues.

Main topics for the meeting between Presidents Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump have been well documented, according to them, with both sides also having pointed out what they wished to discuss during their one-on-one White House summit and a subsequent expanded session involving their top aides.

For both countries, how to rein in North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats sits high on the agenda. But Washington has also stressed a need to address its trade deficit with Seoul during the summit.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) examines the memorial for the Jangjin Lake Campaign, a Korean War battle that allowed his parents to escape from what is now Hungnam, North Korea in 1950 while visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia on June 28, 2017, the same day he arrived in the United States for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap) South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) examines the memorial for the Jangjin Lake Campaign, a Korean War battle that allowed his parents to escape from what is now Hungnam, North Korea in 1950 while visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia on June 28, 2017, the same day he arrived in the United States for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

"It (trade deficit) has caught the president's eye. And I think that he'll talk about that," a White House official said earlier of the upcoming summit.

South Korean officials noted there may be some differences between the two allies over a wide range of issues, including whether there exists a large enough trade gap between the countries that needs to be addressed.

For instance, the U.S. president has called for renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, calling it a "horrible deal."

   Moon, on the other hand, has said the trade deal mutually benefited both countries, noting the U.S. has become the world's largest destination for South Korean investment, which clearly helped create jobs in the U.S.

Partly backing Moon's point, a group of representatives from 52 South Korean companies earlier announced a plan to invest a combined US$12.8 billion in the United States over the next five years.

Still, the Cheong Wa Dae officials said such topics, though may be a great number, will make up a rather small part of the summit.

What is really important is for the two leaders to form a close, personal relationship, close enough that they will feel comfortable to call each other at any time if necessary, they said.

"We hope the two heads of state will form a close relationship and trust, so they will establish a close consultative mechanism through telephone conversations whenever necessary, reciprocal visits and multilateral meetings," Chung Eui-yong, the head of the presidential National Security Office, said earlier.

Frequent and frank discussions between the two leaders are apparently important for their countries to coordinate and implement their joint measures immediately following a fresh provocation by North Korea.

The communist state staged five missile tests since the Moon Jae-in administration took office on May 10. Many also believe the North may conduct what will be its sixth nuclear test in the near future.

Earlier, the South Korean president stressed a need for the allies to impose new and stronger sanctions against Pyongyang following its sixth nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, noting the communist regime may develop an ICBM that can hit U.S. mainland in "not too distant future."

  

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at a dinner hosted by the U.S. leader and his wife, Melania, at the White House on June 29, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at a dinner hosted by the U.S. leader and his wife, Melania, at the White House on June 29, 2017. (Yonhap)

Possibly signaling a positive outcome of Friday's meeting, the two leaders were seen to be holding "frank" and "serious" discussions on various issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula over a dinner hosted by President Trump at the White House on Thursday.

"Discussions between the two heads of state were very frank and serious, and many issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula were discussed," Yoon Young-chan, Moon's chief press secretary, told reporters earlier.

"The leaders of the two countries agreed to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, establish peace on the Korean Peninsula and ensure the countries' economic development based on a strong Korea-U.S. alliance," he added.

Following their one-on-one and expanded talks at the White House, Moon and Trump will hold a joint press conference on the outcome of their two-day meeting here.

Seoul officials said they were also expected to issue a joint statement.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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