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(News Focus) N.K. leader's 'complete' denuclearization pledge bodes well for Kim-Trump summit

2018/04/27 19:43

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By Chang Jae-soon

SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) -- The "complete" denuclearization pledge that President Moon Jae-in won from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Friday's historic summit bodes well for the upcoming talks between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The two leaders said in a joint declaration announced after a full day of meetings at the border village of Panmunjom that they "confirmed the common goal of realizing a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons through complete denuclearization."

   It was believed to be the first time that the North's leader has explicitly committed to "complete" denuclearization. The term "complete" is part of the long-running U.S. goal of a "complete, verifiable and irreversible" dismantlement of the communist nation.

Kim has usually avoided talking about the nuclear issue, but even if he did, he didn't go that far, only saying that he remains committed to realizing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula because it was a dying wish of his father, the late leader Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather, the nation's founder Kim Il-sung.

His agreement to use the term "complete" in the declaration may sound like it's not a big deal, but it is still seen as a carefully orchestrated departure from the past that sends a goodwill message ahead of the summit with Trump that is expected to take place in late May or early June.

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands after meeting at the border village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. (Yonhap) President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands after meeting at the border village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. (Yonhap)

Moon and Kim also agreed on a number of peace and reconciliation measures, bringing the long-stalled rapprochement process between the two sides back on the right track and raising hope for what Kim described as a "new history" and an "era of peace."

   "There will no longer be war on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said during a joint announcement with Kim.

The two leaders also agreed to work together to convert the 1953 Korean War armistice into a peace treaty this year and to hold three-way talks between the two Koreas and the United States or four-way talks between the two Koreas, the U.S. and China to establish a firm peace regime on the peninsula.

The armistice has never been replaced by a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.

The summit deal also includes halting all hostile acts against each other, reaffirming their previous non-aggression accord, opening a liaison office in the North's border city of Kaesong, expanding exchanges in all sectors and holding reunions of separated families around August.

The two sides also agreed to hold general-grade military talks next month, to carry out a series of economic cooperation projects that were agreed upon in the 2007 summit but never implemented and to take steps to turn the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and waters around the western sea border into a "peace" zone and "peace" waters.

Moon also agreed to travel to Pyongyang in the fall this year for his second summit with Kim.

These agreements, especially economic deals, can be implemented in earnest only when there is progress on the nuclear issue. Most economic cooperation projects with the North are impossible to carry out unless sanctions on Pyongyang are relaxed or lifted.

This is why Friday's agreement raises hope for good results from the Kim-Trump summit. Trump has said he won't accept anything short of complete denuclearization and that he won't lift sanctions without progress on the nuclear issue.

During Friday's meetings, Kim also made a number of friendly peace gestures and remarks.

"I heard that Mr. President had tossed and turned early in the morning as you had to participate in National Security Council sessions ... You should be accustomed to waking up early (by now)," Kim told Moon, referring to early morning NSC meetings that Moon convened whenever the North conducted nuclear or missile tests.

"I will make sure that Mr. President won't have his early morning sleep interrupted," he said.

Kim also said he came to Friday's summit to "put a final end to the history of confrontation" and "to resolve problems between us by getting knee to knee with Mr. President."

   While reviewing an honor guard, Moon told Kim that it was a scaled-back ceremony and that he would like to show Kim a full honor guard ceremony at the South's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. Kim said in response, "Oh, yeah? If Mr. President invites (me), I will go to Cheong Wa Dae at any time."

   What makes this week's meeting different from the previous 2007 summit is the fact that Moon has enough time to carry out summit deals as the meeting came only a year after Moon took office for a five-year term. The 2007 summit took place only a few months before then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun left office.

Moon also stressed the importance of speedy implementation.

"Looking back, what is the most important is speed," he said.

Kim said in response that the two sides should "make sure we won't get back to square one again."

   Kim also left a guest book message, "New history from now on. From the starting point of an era of peace, history."

   jschang@yna.co.kr

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