This week, Mr. Kim surprised both South Korea and the United States by secretly visiting Beijing, in his first trip outside North Korea since taking power. He met with President Xi Jinping of China, the North’s traditional communist ally, in a bid to mend frayed ties before meeting Mr. Moon and Mr. Trump.
In his discussions with Mr. Xi, Mr. Kim reaffirmed his intention to meet with the two leaders, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency. Later Thursday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency for the first time confirmed Mr. Kim’s plan to meet with Mr. Moon, without disclosing the time and venue of their meeting. It has yet to announce a planned summit meeting with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Moon’s office, in its first comment on the Beijing meeting, said on Thursday that it was a welcome development, calling it “highly significant” that Mr. Kim had reportedly confirmed his willingness to discuss denuclearization and meet with the American and South Korean presidents.
Mr. Trump’s ready acceptance of direct talks with Mr. Kim stunned much of the world. If that meeting indeed takes place — some American officials have expressed doubts — Mr. Trump will be the first sitting American president to meet a North Korean leader. The United States fought against the North during the Korean War and has no diplomatic ties with it.
American officials have been reaching out to the North Koreans in hopes of hearing directly from them about Mr. Kim’s intentions. Officials hope that Mr. Moon’s meeting with Mr. Kim will provide further clues to Mr. Kim’s strategy and help Washington prepare for Mr. Trump’s own meeting with the North Korean leader.
Officials and analysts disagree about whether Mr. Kim’s recent outreach represents a real move toward dismantling his nuclear arsenal or a short-term ploy to confuse his enemies, gain relief from international sanctions and buy time to advance his arms programs further.
When Mr. Kim met with Mr. Xi on Monday, he proposed “phased, synchronized” moves toward denuclearization, which is the same approach the North insisted on in past negotiations with Washington. In those talks, the North offered to take incremental steps toward giving up its nuclear program, beginning with a freeze, and demanded that the United States reciprocate with incentives like fuel oil shipments.