Kim Jong Un on Friday 27 broke history to become the first North Korean ruler to bridge the military line dividing the Koreas since 1953 as he stepped into the South Korean territory for a summit.
Kim Jong crossed the border to meet with President Moon Jae-in for a one-day bilateral summit – the third ever held between the two countries – to find a common ground for achieving a concrete progress on denuclearization.
Hailed as a diplomatic win, the meeting comes after North Korea has been continuously making nuclear tests and launching missiles. However, some believe that President Moon will utilize the summit to establish trust rather than addressing the real issues regarding Kim Jong’s nuclear program.
Reuters reported that the two leaders engaged talked about denuclearization, and according to Moon Chung-In, special advisor to the South Korean president, they are hoping that a peace settlement and an improvement of inter-Korean relations will prevail.
“South Korean government is hoping to persuade Kim to adopt a joint statement on the denuclearization of North Korea, and it is very important for us to get a written statement,” he added.
The two leaders, at the end of the summit, are expected to sign a joint agreement. Scrutiny, however, will be placed on the wording and potential promises Kim may make regarding matters of inter-Korean cooperation, such as family reunions, as well as nuclear policy.
Experts said the outcome of the summit in the long term will depend on how willing Kim is to stick to its agreements. Observers have warned that the regime has a track record of extracting concessions without giving much in return, to ensure the survival of the Kim family dynasty.
The surprise visit has caused a stir among many considering North Korea has always regarded denuclearization as an issue to be exclusively broached with the United States. Perhaps this is why strategists think the real purpose behind the meeting is to set the stage for Kim’s meeting with President Donald Trump slated for May or June.
According to Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies and director of the U.S.-Korea Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, South Korea can support dialogue on denuclearization with North Korea but can never lead such a dialogue.
“This means that if Moon achieves an inter-Korean summit but is unable to set the stage for a Trump-Kim summit, his efforts to reach out to North Korea will have been foiled,” said Snyder.
Many have warned that hammering out such a complex issue in one summit, especially details such as reaching a definition of “denuclearization” that are accepted by all players and figuring out how to verify it, remains infeasible.
The U.S President, Trump, on Tuesday, specifically defined denuclearization as Pyongyang getting rid of its deadly weapons. The reclusive state, however, has insisted over the years that it may agree to do so only if Washington fulfills certain conditions, such as terminating its military presence in South Korea.
While President Moon, who has been criticized for being too accommodative to Pyongyang, isn’t expected to take a hard-nosed stance towards Kim, he’s not likely to be soft either.
“Moon has made it very clear that he will use this inter-Korean summit as a bridge to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” President Moon’s special advisor said.
According to the advisor, the South Korean leader will be working very hard to convey President Trump’s message to Chairman Kim Jong Un and vice-versa. President Moon is planning to visit Washington in May, and he can play the role of ‘honest broker’ between Trump and Kim.
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