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Across Asia, Governments React To Meeting Between U.S. And North Korea


Governments across Asia see the first ever summit between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea as progress, but opinions vary over what the statement signed by the two leaders means and what comes next. Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: South Korea's defense ministry seemed a bit caught off guard when President Trump said the U.S. would suspend military drills with the South. They and the U.S.'s 28,000-strong military force in South Korea apparently hadn't heard about this change, but South Korean President Moon Jae-in was enthusiastic about the summit's achievements. He confided he had been so excited that he had barely slept the night before. Spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom read Moon's statement.


KIM EUI-KYEOM: (Through interpreter) This is just a beginning, and there may be many difficulties ahead. But we will never go back to the past again and never give up on this bold journey. History is a record of people who take action and rise to a challenge.

KUHN: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed Kim Jong Un's written commitment to denuclearization, as did U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. China, meanwhile, took credit for suggesting that the U.S. freeze its military drills in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear and missile tests. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also suggested at a briefing that the U.N. might want to ease sanctions on North Korea to reward it for steps towards nuclear disarmament.


GENG SHUANG: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "Sanctions are not an end in themselves," he commented. "The U.N. Security Council, through its actions, should support the current diplomatic negotiations." Lu Chao is an expert on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in northeast China's Shenyang city. He argues that the U.S. and North Korea probably reached consensus on a number of issues that they glossed over in the statement. An example, he says, is that the statement only vaguely mentions U.S. security guarantees for North Korea, but he says the meaning of this is clear.

LU CHAO: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "This is a repeat of previous U.S. statements that it does not seek to overthrow the current regime in North Korea," he says. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he notes, made this point to Pyongyang as far back as last August. Lu admits that Trump and Kim's statement was not as detailed as some had hoped, and that drew a lot of criticism in the U.S. But he says in the end, whether the North is serious or not about giving up its nukes depends not just on Kim but on whether the U.S. and President Trump keep their side of the bargain, too. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Singapore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.