[Editorial] We look forward to Pyongyang summit producing candid discussions for peace and denuclearization

Posted on : 2018-09-18 18:10 KST Modified on : 2018-09-18 18:10 KST
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un embrace each other at Pyongyang‘s Sunan International Airport on Sept. 18
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un embrace each other at Pyongyang‘s Sunan International Airport on Sept. 18

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang on Sept. 18 for a three-day visit and summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This is the third meeting between the South and North Korean leaders this year alone, and Moon’s first visit to Pyongyang since taking office.

While all meetings between the South and North Korean leaders are of historic significance, this Pyongyang summit carries great weight and meaning in light of the seriousness of the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula. The outcome of this summit is very likely to determine the success of the upcoming South Korea-US summit later this month and a second North Korea-US summit. It would not be out of line to say the very fate of the Korean Peninsula rests on the South and North Korean leaders’ shoulders.

As predicted, the agenda for the Pyongyang summit can be summed up as focusing on advancing inter-Korean relations, reducing military tensions, and promoting the peninsula’s denuclearization. The area of military tensions in particular is seen as offering the greater odds for a concrete agreement. During military general-level talks last week, the two sides reportedly reached a de facto agreement on previously discussed areas including a test withdrawal of guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

One area where no conclusion has yet been reached concerns the establishment of a joint inter-Korean fishery zone in the area around the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West (Yellow) Sea. If the South and North Korean leaders are able to reach a substantive agreement on this issue, it will mark a major step forward in relaxing tensions and promoting peace.

From the inclusion of numerous figures in economy-related areas on the visiting delegation, it can be seen that a major focus of the third summit will be the advancement of inter-Korean relations, and the expansion of inter-Korean economic cooperation in particular. But it must be acknowledged that full-scale inter-Korean economic cooperation is not really an option with the strict international sanctions currently imposed on the North.

Nevertheless, we will need to do all that we can without overstepping the international sanctions framework. We especially need to avail ourselves of the opportunity to hold ample prior discussions to enable an immediate expansion of economic cooperation once economic sanctions have been reduced. With increased inter-Korean economic cooperation having the potential to provide not just an opportunity for North Korea’s economic development but also an avenue for the South Korean economy to move past the wall it has reached with its growth engines, expectations in this area are very high.

The reason President Moon is not approaching this North Korea visit in an entirely sanguine mood is because talks between North Korea and the US remain at an impasse over the denuclearization issue. During this summit, the two leaders will need to hold practical, concrete discussions on the matter of denuclearization.

Between Pyongyang and Washington, a tense tug-of-war has been taking place over the question of whether an end-of-war declaration or denuclearization measures are to come first. As a mediator and catalyst for the North Korea-US negotiations, President Moon should convey the Donald Trump administration’s position in detail while offering creative alternatives to win Kim Jong-un’s support.

Once these issues have been resolved, the South Korea-US summit later this month will be able to yield results, and prospects for a second North Korea-US summit will brighten. Kim Jong-un needs to confront the fact that ending the stalemate in denuclearization talks is a matter with direct bearing on the date of the Korean Peninsula as a whole and work proactively to cooperate with President Moon on finding a solution.

With this difficult situation going on, we look forward to the Pyongyang summit bringing about candid discussions between the two leaders – and a generous agreement that presents a great gift to the Korean people.

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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