“Although the special envoys have already confirmed a willingness to denuclearize, it will make a difference if the two heads of state will meet and more clearly confirm it and make it a formal statement,” Mr. Im told reporters on Tuesday.
More talks are needed to determine how specific the declaration would be about denuclearization, said Mr. Im, who is in charge of South Korean officials preparing for the summit meeting. But he said the joint statement would be broad and fairly “abstract,” because any substantial deal on the North’s nuclear weapons must be struck between Mr. Kim and President Trump.
Mr. Trump has said he plans to meet with Mr. Kim in May or early June to try to persuade him to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. Mr. Moon, whose envoys brought Mr. Trump the message that Mr. Kim wanted to talk, has tried to be a mediator between the American and North Korean leaders, viewing his own meeting with Mr. Kim as laying the groundwork for the more important one to follow.
North Korean and United States officials have also been engaged in talks in preparation for their leaders’ meeting, during which American officials have said the North reaffirmed a willingness to discuss denuclearization. But it is still unclear what Mr. Kim would seek in return for abandoning nuclear arms, and whether those demands would be acceptable to Washington.
When Mr. Kim met with President Xi Jinping of China late last month, he called for “phased” and “synchronized” implementation of any denuclearization deal. Under such an approach, which North Korea has sought in past talks about its nuclear programs, the North would dismantle its program in stages, with each one met by an incentive, like an easing of international sanctions.
Some American hard-liners reject such an approach, saying that the North has no real intention of giving up nuclear weapons and is only seeking relief from sanctions. John R. Bolton made that argument before Mr. Trump chose him last month to be his national security adviser.
According to South Korean officials and analysts, Mr. Moon hopes for a “comprehensive deal,” in which Mr. Kim commits to dismantling his nuclear arsenal and Mr. Trump reciprocates with security guarantees for the North, including normalized ties and a peace treaty with Washington.
“When our special envoys visited Pyongyang, the mood was not bad, and we understand that the North Koreans and the Americans are both engaged in sincere discussions, so we are optimistic about the inter-Korean summit,” Mr. Im said. “But we could face obstacles any time.”