Early re­views:

East Asian na­tions tout sum­mit’s progress.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRIAN MUR­PHY AND SHIBANI MAHTANI brian.mur­phy@wash­post.com shibani.mahtani@wash­post.com Mahtani con­trib­uted from Wash­ing­ton. Emily Rauhala in Bei­jing and Yuki Oda in Tokyo con­trib­uted.

seoul — South Korea’s pres­i­dent, Moon Jae-in, her­alded the Singapore sum­mit as a suc­cess that has es­tab­lished a path for peace, ex­press­ing grat­i­tude to Pres­i­dent Trump on Tues­day even af­ter a sur­prise an­nounce­ment that the U.S. mil­i­tary will sus­pend some mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea seen as a threat by the North.

In a state­ment re­leased by his of­fice, Moon praised the sum­mit as a “great vic­tory achieved by both the United States and the two Koreas.”

“I would like to pay my re­spect to Pres­i­dent Trump, who achieved a feat that no one else has ever de­liv­ered,” he said. “Chair­man Kim Jong Un will also be re­mem­bered as a leader who made a his­toric mo­ment by tak­ing the first bold step to­ward the world.”

His state­ment, how­ever, was quick to raise the po­ten­tial dif­fi­cul­ties of the road ahead, re­flect­ing Moon’s view that the sum­mit was but the first step in a years­long process to sta­bi­lize and de­nu­cle­arize the Korean Penin­sula.

Moon has been a cau­tious but de­ter­mined bro­ker of peace be­tween the two Koreas, play­ing a cru­cial role in keep­ing con­tacts alive with North Korea af­ter Trump abruptly can­celed the sum­mit late last month.

But his govern­ment was sur­prised by Trump’s an­nounce­ment af­ter the sum­mit that the United States would be sus­pend­ing mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea, with­out spec­i­fy­ing which of the drills and when that might hap­pen. His govern­ment was not in­formed of the de­ci­sion be­fore the an­nounce­ment, and the two lead­ers spoke over the phone only af­ter the sum­mit.

Else­where in East Asia, the pub­lic re­sponse to the sum­mit was cau­tious but gen­er­ally pos­i­tive.

In Ja­pan, which had hoped that North Korea would com­mit to re­open­ing the is­sue of ab­ducted Ja­panese cit­i­zens, there was re­lief that Trump said he had at least raised the is­sue with Kim.

China is­sued a hedged state­ment about the pos­si­bil­ity of re­lax­ing sanc­tions on North Korea — but saw its pre­ferred ap­proach to U.S.-North Korean re­la­tions spelled out vir­tu­ally in­tact in the Trump-Kim state­ment.

Bei­jing got ev­ery­thing it wanted, Abra­ham Den­mark, di­rec­tor of the Asia pro­gram at the Wilson Cen­ter, wrote in an email. By halt­ing mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea, Trump “re­moved a ma­jor ir­ri­tant for Bei­jing,” he wrote.

“I ex­pect Bei­jing sees it­self as a big win­ner com­ing out of to­day’s sum­mit,” he con­tin­ued. “But I also sus­pect that some in China are ner­vous about the United States and North Korea get­ting too close. I ex­pect Bei­jing to ac­cel­er­ate its en­gage­ment of North Korea, with high-level po­lit­i­cal meet­ings and even eco­nomic as­sis­tance and in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment. China will make sure that it re­tains sig­nif­i­cant lever­age and can­not be by­passed or ig­nored.”

A spokesman for China’s For­eign Min­istry said Bei­jing would con­sider eas­ing sanc­tions but only if Py­ongyang meets con­di­tions laid out in U.N. res­o­lu­tions.

“China has con­sis­tently held that sanc­tions are not the goal in them­selves. The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s ac­tions should sup­port and con­form to the ef­forts of cur­rent diplo­matic talks to­ward de­nu­cle­ariz­ing the Korean Penin­sula, and pro­mote a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion,” spokesman Geng Zhuang said.

Lu Chao, a Korea ex­pert at the Liaon­ing Academy of So­cial Sciences in Shenyang, said the state­ment in Singapore re­flected China’s de­mands and goals.

“It’s his­toric progress, and we can be­lieve that the penin­sula has be­gun to start to­ward peace,” he said.

But North Korea’s other neigh­bor in the Pa­cific, Ja­pan, was left with­out what it wanted most from the sum­mit — a clear dec­la­ra­tion that North Korea would re­open talks over the ab­duc­tions of Ja­panese cit­i­zens decades ago.

Nonethe­less, Ja­panese lead­ers ap­peared sat­is­fied with what they got: Trump’s pub­lic prom­ise that he raised the is­sue with Kim and that the North was “work­ing on that.”

Even the vague com­ment by Trump saved Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment af­ter he lob­bied Trump to cham­pion the is­sue.

“I highly value the fact Pres­i­dent Trump men­tioned things that I had told him the other day,” Abe told re­porters. “I’d like to thank Pres­i­dent Trump that he raised the ab­duc­tion is­sue clearly.”

For Ja­pan, the ab­duc­tions re­main a ma­jor ob­sta­cle to join­ing the United States and South Korea in the grow­ing en­gage­ment with the North.

The fact that the ab­duc­tion is­sue was not in­cluded in the Trump-Kim state­ment could put po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on Abe.

Yoshi­masa Suenobu, a pro­fes­sor at Tokai Uni­ver­sity, said he did not be­lieve that Abe ex­pected the ab­duc­tion is­sue to be part of any dec­la­ra­tion.

“I think it’s good enough that Pres­i­dent Trump kept his word and men­tioned it,” Suenobu added. “So the out­come wasn’t the great­est, but Trump did the least he could do.”

North Korea has ad­mit­ted to kid­nap­ping 13 peo­ple from Ja­pan in the 1970s and 1980s to train as spies. Py­ongyang al­lowed five of the ab­ductees to re­turn to Ja­pan with their fam­i­lies in 2002, but it in­sists that the eight oth­ers died. Ja­pan sus­pects that hun­dreds more may have been taken cap­tive.

Trump told re­porters that he “ab­so­lutely” raised the is­sue. But he gave no in­di­ca­tions of Kim’s re­sponse or what ac­tions the North might take.

“They are go­ing to be work­ing on that. We didn’t put it down in the doc­u­ment, but it’s go­ing to be worked on,” Trump said in the news con­fer­ence af­ter the sum­mit.

Last week in Wash­ing­ton, Abe asked Trump to add the ab­duc­tion is­sue to the Singapore agenda, and on Satur­day in Canada he called for di­rect talks with North Korea.

Sakie Yokota, mother of ab­ductee Megumi Yokota, told broad­caster NHK that she thought a “mirac­u­lous thing hap­pened” in Singapore to pos­si­bly re­vive the ab­duc­tion is­sue with North Korea.

“It’s his­toric progress, and we can be­lieve that the penin­sula has be­gun to start to­ward peace.” Lu Chao, Korea ex­pert at Liaon­ing Academy of So­cial Sciences in China

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