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(News Focus) Moon-Kim summit likely to set speed of denuclearization

2018/08/22 09:56

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SEOUL, Aug. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in will travel to North Korea sometime next month for another summit with its leader Kim Jong-un, but he may be delaying his trip as it may serve as a valuable chance to rid the communist state of its nuclear weapons should ongoing efforts fail.

In high-level talks held earlier this month, the two Koreas agreed to hold what would be the third Moon-Kim summit in Pyongyang sometime in September.

While North Korea's chief delegate hinted that his country offered a specific date for the summit, Seoul officials insisted that a date be set later, prompting speculation that the North may be more eager to hold the summit and to do so earlier.

An official from Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has also made it clear that Seoul wishes to wait at least until after Sept. 10.

"When considering realistic conditions, I believe (holding the summit) in early September will likely be difficult," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said earlier, adding that early September refers to Sept. 1 through Sept. 10.

Kim explained the reason largely had to do with North Korea's political and diplomatic events, such as the Sept. 9 anniversary of the foundation of the North Korean government.

The summit was largely expected to be held in late August or early September. Many believe the delay may have more to do with what Seoul seeks to achieve in the summit -- to get the denuclearization process to the next stage.

Moon and Kim agreed in their first-ever summit held at the border village of Panmunjom on April 27 to hold a summit in the North Korean capital this fall. They had a second summit in Panmunjom on May 26.

The denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea have recently shown signs of progress after months of an apparent stand-off over when and how the North will give up its nuclear arsenal and the U.S. will reward the impoverished North.

The U.S. is said to have demanded a complete list of North Korea's nuclear arsenal and the shipment of up to 70 percent of the North's nuclear stockpile outside of the country, preferably to the U.S., before year's end.

Such a demand comes ahead of the U.S. midterm elections set for November, though Washington has said its goal is to have the North completely denuclearized before President Donald Trump's four-year term ends in January 2021.

North Korea, on the other hand, is demanding quid pro quo.

Kim's pledge to denuclearize his country came in his first meeting with Moon, and he reaffirmed his agreement to do so in a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, held in Singapore on June 12, but only in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S.

Following his latest trip to Pyongyang last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed progress in what he called "productive" talks with his North Korean counterparts there.

North Korea, however, accused the U.S. of making "gangster-like" demands for it to completely, verifiably and irreversibly denuclearize, while emphasizing that such demands were unilateral, clearly implying that the country offered no reward in return.

President Moon called for sincere efforts on both sides to move the denuclearization process forward.

"If North Korea comes up with a more detailed plan for its denuclearization while South Korea and the U.S. swiftly take corresponding measures, the speed (of denuclearization) will further increase," he said in a special lecture given during his three-day state visit to Singapore last month.

Pompeo is widely expected to take his fourth trip to Pyongyang later this month or in early September.

Moon's trip, apparently, will come after that.

In this photo taken on April 27, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un embrace each other after signing their joint declaration on complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at the end of their first-ever inter-Korean summit held at the border village of Panmunjom. (Yonhap) In this photo taken on April 27, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un embrace each other after signing their joint declaration on complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at the end of their first-ever inter-Korean summit held at the border village of Panmunjom. (Yonhap)

"If we say the denuclearization process is in a deadlock, that will only be another reason to hold a South-North summit," a Cheong Wa Dae official said

Seoul has noted Moon's North Korea trip will likely focus on further improving inter-Korean ties and expanding the countries' economic cooperation.

"As I have said on several occasions, we believe development in the U.S.-North Korea relationship should promote development in the South-North Korean relationship and development in inter-Korean relations must help lead improvements in the U.S.-North Korea relationship," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim said Tuesday.

Moon's North Korea trip, if made, will be the first of its kind since he took office in May 2017, while his meeting with Kim will mark the third of its kind following their second summit held in Panmunjom on May 26.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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